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Enjoy Suffolk’s wildlife – but lockdown unlikely to impact natural world

PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:25 09 April 2020

Suffolk Wildlife Trust's reserves like Redgrave and Lopham Fen are closed. File picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk Wildlife Trust's reserves like Redgrave and Lopham Fen are closed. File picture: GREGG BROWN

The lockdown may be having a huge impact on human life in East Anglia – but there is little evidence that it has affected the region’s wildlife so far.

Suffolk Wildlife Trusts head of conservation, Ben McFarland Picture: SARAH GROVES/SWTSuffolk Wildlife Trusts head of conservation, Ben McFarland Picture: SARAH GROVES/SWT

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust said that two weeks of people staying at home was not enough to bring any real change to the natural world here – unlike in Llandudno in north Wales, where a herd of feral goats has invaded part of the town, or in Mill Hill in north London, where deer have moved on to a housing estate.

Some ground-nesting birds may benefit from less disturbance – but there is no evidence that there has been a major improvement in nature.

What is happening is that people are staying at home, watching their gardens - and many are able to go on short walks from their homes for their daily exercise.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: “What we’re seeing is gorgeous, glorious spring – and many of us are noticing it more than usual because we’re at home and watching it, revelling in it, seeking solace in it in our gardens and neighbourhoods. We can probably hear it better too because there’s less traffic.

“We’re really delighted that people are tuning into nature and we hope it’ll become a rediscovered pleasure and habit for us all. The Wildlife Trusts are helping people do this from home – there’s been enormous interest in our wildlife activities that we’ve put online.

“Being in nature makes us feel better and we know – we have the evidence – that it’s good for health and wellbeing. This is why it is so important that people continue to connect with nature in their daily routines, so it becomes a part of all our lives, no matter what the circumstances.”

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Ben McFarland, head of conservation at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “A few weeks’ of quiet time is not going to make a significant difference for the vast majority of our wildlife that is in decline.

“There is no doubt that some species will benefit, such as ground-nesting birds and urban birds close to busy roads, or fewer hedgehogs getting run over, but nature’s decline is so widespread and caused by much more permanent problems, that a few weeks’ of quiet time is not going to make much difference.”

People cannot drive to SWT reserves during the lockdown – but some people who live near them can use paths through them for daily exercise. A small number of SWT staff are monitoring the reserves and caring for livestock while strictly observing government advice on social distancing.

The spokeswoman said coronavirus was having a devastating effect on all Wildlife Trust branches and their ability to do vital conservation work.

“For Suffolk Wildlife Trust, our 1,300 volunteers are staying at home so our 50 nature reserves are not getting the level of monitoring or management they need,” she said.

“Our visitor and learning centres have had to close and this is having an adverse effect on income. The trust needs people’s support more than ever.”


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