We all depend on the natural world, from the food we eat and the water we drink to the air we breathe. For our natural world to survive and thrive, we need a great variety of plants and animals – this is called biodiversity.

But the natural world and biodiversity is in trouble, especially in the UK – and it is humans that are to blame. Through our activity, more and more plants and animals are facing an uncertain future and this, in turn, is having a terrible effect on the health of our planet.

The biggest threat to our wildlife and biodiversity today is habitat loss. Humans cause habitat loss through pollution – of our rivers and waterways, and through climate change. But the most significant impact on habitat loss is through our use of land – for agriculture, industry and for building houses, schools, roads and other infrastructure.

Thankfully, it is not too late to make a change.

In this theme

The ‘Protecting our local wildlife’ theme uses specimens from the Tees Valley Museums’ fascinating collections to look at some of the different animals that can be found in the Tees Valley. It also explores the habitats they live in, from the fresh water environment of the River Tees and the saltmarshes and mudflats of the estuary, to woodlands, hedgerows, the coastline and even our own gardens.

The theme focuses particularly on animals that are protected or endangered, like the hedgehog and the bumblebee, and what we can do to help them. It also looks at animals that are now recovering in their numbers, such as otters and peregrine falcons, due to initiatives to protect them and restore their habitats.

Using painting from our collections, this theme also looks at some of the ways humans are impacting on wildlife habitats, such as farming and agriculture, industrial pollution and the development of land, and what we can do to reduce this.

Using the images and information

The images in this theme can be used to introduce and support classroom topics and to prompt discussion. They can be projected onto whiteboards, viewed on tablets, printed or added to your own presentations and other classroom resources.

Each image comes with a set of ‘look closer’ questions, information for teachers and links to activities, videos and more.

Museum collections and the natural world

Museum collections like these provide valuable windows to the past and to changes in biodiversity. Careful records of where and when specimens were found provide scientists with important information about how populations of species have changed over time.

This helps us understand more about the impacts of habitat loss and climate change on our wildlife and ecosystems. It also provides valuable insights into species that are now rare or even extinct.

Today, there are strict ethical rules about how natural history specimens are collected and preserved.

Find out more


Eurasian Otter


Peacock Butterfly

Peregrine falcon

Grass snake

Great crested newt

Atlantic salmon

Farming and agriculture

Industrial pollution

Development of land