Thursday, 19 January 2012

True or False?

What's the fastest animal in the world? Well if you include cars, planes and space rockets then it's definitely humans. But under our own steam we're a lot slower, even the fastest 100m sprint ever recorded only reaches about 40km/h.

Others in the animal kingdom would leave Usain Bolt standing though. Whilst I was volunteering with the Wildlife Trust yesterday, a group of 8 year olds were asked "True or false, the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world?" Most children said true, a few thought it might be a trick question and dithered, none of them came up with another animal they thought went faster.

So were they right? The cheetah is very fast over short distances and can reach 120km/h at top speed but its not quite the fastest. In fact its a UK animal which wins the gold. Reaching over 325km/h the peregrine falcon    is incredibly quick. These top speeds are reached when in free-fall swooping down from cliffs or the sky to catch prey.

And where can you go to see these incredible racers? Well quite a lot of places if you know where to look, peregrines are residents across Scotland and Wales and are found around the edges of Ireland and England. They're not just rural birds either. Their natural habitat is high cliffs and as far as they are concerned that's exactly what tower blocks are. You'll find them hanging around on top of the Tate in London as well as in central Manchester and other large cities. We even think we saw one in Preston a few weeks ago! Probably my best wildlife sighting in the city so far.

It's brilliant having such exciting wildlife right on our doorstep in this country. I wish more school children knew that the fastest animal in the world doesn't need a plane journey or a zoo to be found, just a bit of local knowledge and some patience.

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