Nature reserves damaged as lockdown restrictions ease

Disturbance to wildlife, wildfires, vandalism and littering have been reported by many Wildlife Trusts across the UK as people descended upon reserves as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Fire at the closed Charnwood Lodge Nature Reserve. (Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust)

The Wildlife Trusts — consisting of 46 nature charities across the UK — have been left reeling from the damage caused by an increased number of visitors to reserves as a result of lockdown restrictions being eased, combined with warmer weather.

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The organisation reported a huge increase in damage to its reserves and the wildlife that lives there, including fires across wild areas where portable barbecues have been used; ground-nesting birds and rare plants being disturbed and trampled by people and dogs; and antisocial behaviour such as littering, using wild places as outdoors toilets, and vandalism.

An adder on burnt heathland at Elstead Commons, Surrey Wildlife Trust.
An adder on burnt heathland at Elstead Commons. Surrey Wildlife Trust

The Wildlife Trusts have described the antisocial behaviour on site, including abuse toward their staff, as the worst they have ever known.

At a Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve, a lapwing and its chicks were savaged by a dog, and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust reported increased fly tipping, racist graffiti, and fights with broken bottles.

Litter at Narborough Bog. Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
Litter at Narborough Bog. Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said, “The Wildlife Trusts have more nature reserves than McDonalds has restaurants in the UK, but our precious wildlife sites are bad places to hold a barbecue. These wonderful wild places are vital local havens for people to enjoy with family and friends, to walk, rest, and see nature.

“Our natural heritage is priceless and so important for us all — for our health and happiness — but it is fragile. We’re appealing to everyone to love and look after it. Everyone is welcome but please respect our wild places, other visitors and people who work there.”

The Wildlife Trusts asks that visitors do the following when they visit reserves:

  • Avoid barbecues and fires
  • Take all your litter home
  • Keep dogs on leads (check whether they’re allowed on-site) and pick up dog mess
  • Park considerately
  • Cafes and toilets are shut — so limit the length of your visit and stay local!
  • Avoid trampling sensitive wildflower meadows
  • Smile at our staff — we’re here to help you enjoy your visit!
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Main image shows the damage done by a fire at the closed Charnwood Lodge Nature Reserve (Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust).