Thousands of people have enjoyed and sought solace in beautiful countryside and stunning Wildlife Trust nature reserves across the country over the last few weeks. But these places and other attractive beauty spots have taken a battering as the lifting of some lockdown rules coincides with warmer weather leading to a surge of people outdoors.
As a result, The Wildlife Trusts – a movement of 46 nature charities across the UK – are reporting a huge increase of damage to reserves and the wildlife that lives there. These include:
- Devastating fires across wild areas where portable BBQs have been used
- Ground-nesting birds and rare plants have been disturbed and trampled by people and dogs
- Antisocial behaviour – including littering, using wild places as outdoor toilets and vandalism have been widely reported
Kent Wildlife Trust has described antisocial behaviour on site, including abuse directed towards staff as the worst they have ever known. The Trust has had to deal with serious damage to site infrastructure, bird hides on key sites like its Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. Some hides have been so badly damaged that they will need to be taken down as a result. The Trust has also seen a wildfire on its Sandwich and Pegwell Bay reserve which destroyed fragile wildlife habitat, killing hundreds of reptiles. Other incidents have included broken windows, litter, fly-tipping and people blocking roads near the reserves.
The Trust has struggled to cope with the scale of the problems. The financial impact of the pandemic on Kent Wildlife Trust is severe. The charity is currently estimating a £600-800k loss in income and has therefore had to furlough staff and restrict the warden team whilst working very hard to continue to protect the natural heritage in these very challenging times.