The campaign kicks off with a plea to #KeepWildlifeWild by appreciating and observing wildlife in its natural habitat, rather than seeking an up close and personal experience. This will include asking visitors not to feed wildlife in the parks, by drawing attention to the harmful effect it can have on animals and their habitats.
The Royal Parks are some of the most popular and iconic parks in the country. Hyde Park, for example, attracts almost 13 million visits a year. Its popularity results in high volumes of wildlife feeding, which is upsetting the park’s delicate ecosystem.
The charity has released a video showing the scale of the feeding that takes place at the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. The video, filmed in May 2021, shows birds being fed 15 times in a two-hour period by a small stretch of the lake.
Tom Jarvis, Director of Parks at The Royal Parks says: “We understand that visitors want to get close to nature, particularly in a busy city like London, and the desire to feed wildlife comes from a good place, but leaving wildlife alone is often the kindest thing to do. There is an abundance of natural food in the parks for all wildlife to feed on, including insects and wildflower seeds.”
Excessive feeding in the parks encourages large groups of birds such as gulls and crows. They bully other birds, stealing their eggs and killing their chicks. Leftover food can attract rats, and water quality can be impacted through uneaten soggy bread and waterfowl faeces. Feeding from the public also attracts large numbers of waterfowl, which leads to overcrowding and stress, and helps wildlife diseases spread.
As part of the campaign, visitors to Richmond and Bushy Parks, will also be reminded to keep a minimum of 50m from the herds of free-roaming wild deer, and to protect their natural way of life by not feeding or touching these wild and unpredictable animals.
Jarvis adds: “We hope this campaign will educate visitors on why feeding wildlife can be harmful. It will also offer people an alternative nature activity when they visit the parks, whether that’s bird spotting or embarking on some of the wildlife self-led trails we have created, providing opportunities to enjoy wildlife in a natural setting.”
The Royal Parks proactively manages the parks to help nature thrive, as set out in its 10-year Biodiversity Framework. This includes creating and managing wildflower meadows and reedbeds, planting new trees, and creating and restoring ponds for invertebrates and amphibians.
“These measures help nature thrive’,” explains Jarvis, “and this in turn boosts the natural food available for wildlife to eat. This food gives them a balanced diet and helps them lead a wild, natural and ultimately better life.”
As well as asking visitors to #KeepWildlifeWild, the campaign will encourage people to learn more about nature through online resources, blogs, competitions, and fun facts.
“If we want people to care about nature, they need to learn about it, understand it and enjoy it.” Says Jarvis. “For many, that connection has always been through feeding animals, but we want to help visitors discover other ways to observe wildlife.”
Pete Lawrence, Biodiversity Manager, concludes: “Biodiversity loss is one of the defining challenges of our generation. We must all be part of the solution to reverse this decline and help nature thrive as time is running out. Keeping wildlife wild is just one way in which people can help and enjoy nature.”
For more information on the campaign visit www.royalparks.org.uk/helpnaturethrive