Several fires are accidentally started in the Royal Parks every year by embers and ash falling from disposable BBQs. Last year, several lizards were killed by a grassland fire in Richmond Park.
The fires can have a devastating effect, destroying historic parkland that hosts a rich diversity of wildlife and wiping out valuable wild-flower meadowland. In previous years, fires have destroyed veteran trees, annihilated flower seed banks and harmed or even killed birds and mammals.
The charity warns that fires have started when people have positioned their BBQs under the shade of large trees which could be hundreds of years old. Some of the oldest trees in the parks have become hollow over time, creating a chimney effect when a fire starts – enabling the fire to spread through the tree rapidly, destroying the tree and killing animals.
Tom Jarvis, director of parks at The Royal Parks, said: “The parks are brimming with wonderful wildlife and incredible landscapes and with this unseasonably warm, sunny weather it is a fantastic time to soak up the nature and enjoy a picnic in this beautiful environment.
“But please remember that BBQs are not permitted in the parks and sadly there have been some awful occasions where we’ve seen centuries of biodiversity annihilated because of an accidental fire.
“Sadly, last year a grassland fire covering 100m2 in Richmond Park wiped out wildlife, destroying a number of lizards. Grass snakes, toads, frogs, newts and stag beetles were killed in other fires.
“We’ve lost veteran trees, with fires burning out the decaying wood within, destroying a habitat that supports more than 1,000 different species of insects and their larvae. Birds in a burning tree will fly off but baby birds will die, and so will roosting bats. Mammals will run off but their nests get burnt.
“Fires are also a risk to the emergency services who are called upon to put them out.
“No-one ever believes it’ll be their actions that causes a fire, but fires can start easily. Please protect wildlife and leave no trace by enjoying a picnic not a BBQ, and by taking any litter home if the bins are full.”