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New leader joins UK’s much-loved force for nature as charities wrestle with pandemic fallout
Craig Bennett becomes new CEO of The Wildlife Trusts on Monday 6th April. He arrives at a time when people seek solace in nature from the coronavirus – but, like so many other charities and businesses, The Wildlife Trusts are struggling with the severe implications of the pandemic on funding, resources, and necessary absence of the 38,000 volunteers that usually help care for thousands of precious wild places and the species that depend on them.
When the UK emerges from coronavirus, the ongoing nature and climate crises will still remain to be tackled and The Wildlife Trusts want to be leading efforts to do this – but they need people’s continued support to survive.
The Wildlife Trusts are a movement of 46 charities whose collective strength often falls below the radar because they operate at a local, grassroots level; their positive influence for nature and on people’s lives is immense.
Craig Bennett, new CEO of The Wildlife Trusts says: “These are desperate times. We’re facing global health, climate and ecological emergencies, and people are turning to, and need, nature more than ever. But when the pandemic has passed, there is a battle to resume – to restore nature and to empower people to take action for the natural world. At The Wildlife Trusts, we have a pivotal role to play and have a clear understanding of the urgency. We have long recognised that conserving nature – protecting the wild places and nature that remain – is not enough; we must all do more to restore the abundance of nature, restore ecosystem processes, and reverse the UK’s status as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. We want to see at least a third of land and sea given to nature by 2030. In short, we want our nature back.
We've launched a new campaign to educate the Scottish public on when wild animals need rescued.
We see a large increase in reports of wildlife in need every Spring. But in many cases the wild animals, particularly if they are young, do not actually need assistance. That is why we have launched the#WildlifeWise campaign.
#WildlifeWise aims to get people who come across baby animals to refrain from disturbing them immediately. Instead, we want people to observe the animal from a distance and, if there is no clear sign of injury or distress, return in a few hours’ time to see if the animal is still there.
Last year, our animal helpline took over 10,000 calls about baby birds and almost 3,000 about foxes. It took around 200,000 calls in total. Over 11,000 animals were admitted to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fishcross in 2019.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to attend urgent rescues and investigate reports of animals in need across Scotland.
Steven Gray, wildlife manager, said: “The majority of reports the Scottish SPCA gets relate to wildlife. Last year, we had over 5,000 birds and 50 fox cubs in our wildlife centre. Many fox cubs, baby birds and young fawns will be left by their mother for several hours at a time. Sometimes, people come across these baby animals and disturb or move them because they think they need help. This can cause great distress to a parent if it returns to find its young are gone, and inadvertently creates a welfare issue, meaning the animal has to be taken to our wildlife centre until it is old enough to survive in the wild.
“Raising wildlife is immensely rewarding, but knowing an animal has been allowed to grow up in their natural habitat with a parent is even better. If we can limit the number of animals coming in when there is no welfare issue, it frees up our dedicated animal welfare experts to spend more time rehabilitating animals in genuine need.”
Tom W. Pennycott, David Grant & Ruedi G. Nager (2020) Earthworms in the diet of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus breeding on an off-shore island, Bird Study, DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2020.1743232
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