RSPCA recruiting ‘Wildlife Friends’ to help tackle the “frustrating” problem.
An animal welfare charity is recruiting volunteers to help it tackle the scourge of litter on the nation’s wildlife – as it fears the problem could soon get “even worse”.
The RSPCA already receives thousands of reports every year about incidents where birds and mammals have been maimed or even killed by carelessly discarded rubbish – and is worried more calls could be on the horizon with warmer weather finally forecast in the coming weeks.
To tackle the problem, the charity is urging animal-lovers to sign up to become Wildlife Friends as part of the RSPCA’s involvement in the King’s coronation volunteering initiative ‘Big Help Out’ – with litter-picking one of a number of ways volunteers can pitch in to help protect wild animals.
Shocking new data from the charity has revealed that it has taken 10,483 reports about litter-affected animals in the past three years. One of the options for Wildlife Friends is litter-picking, which will help reduce litter-related incidents that the RSPCA has to deal with, which range from swans swallowing fishing hooks and hedgehogs maimed by elastic bands to drinks can tabs caught on ducks bills and fox cubs getting their heads caught in old plastic bottles.
RSPCA wildlife officer Evie Button, from the RSPCA’s wildlife team, said: “Litter is one of the biggest and most frustrating hazards our wildlife faces today. It’s a problem on all of our doorsteps – from city centres to the countryside and beaches – and our officers see all too often what a significant problem this is for animal welfare.
“Our army of Wildlife Friends – who have signed up as part of the RSPCA’s involvement in the King’s coronation community volunteering ‘Big Help Out’ initiative – will also be doing their bit, litter-picking in local hot-spots where it is a particular problem.”
The RSPCA has previously urged people to do their bit to pick up litter and protect animals this year, by getting involved in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean’s ‘Big Bag Challenge’, starting on Friday 17 March – and now fears the problem could become even more acute with warmer weather reportedly on the way.
One of the thousands of recent incidents reported to the RSPCA included a fox in desperate need of help in Willesden (pictured), after getting his head stuck inside a discarded plastic bottle. The alarm was sounded to the RSPCA – after locals reported seeing the fox with his head stuck for as long as four days.
RSPCA inspector Dale Grant rushed to the stricken fox’s rescue – and thankfully was able to catch the frightened animal using his rescue pole and carefully pull the bottle from his head. Sadly, however, not all animals impacted by litter are so lucky.
Weather experts claim that the UK could be basking in warmer temperatures by the end of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – following a lengthy cold spell.
Evie added: “With warmer weather on the way in the coming weeks, and people due to spend more time outside, we’re worried we could soon receive yet more reports about animals in trouble because of litter – and that’s why we really need the public’s help, before this problem gets even worse.
“As we head into a warmer spell, it’ll also be a time where we see more baby wildlife starting to be born – and young animals are particularly at risk of carelessly discarded litter.”
The Big Help Out is planned to be the biggest volunteering event of 2023 – and those interested in becoming a Wildlife Friend can get involved via the charity’s website.
Chris Sherwood, the RSPCA’s chief executive, added: “We can all do our bit to help wildlife this Spring and Summer and by working together we can help even more animals.
“We all share our neighbourhoods with wonderful wildlife and we need to protect them – by becoming an RSPCA Wildlife Friend, people can learn how to join with their community to make their area a safe space for the animals sharing our world. From litter picks, to building nest boxes, planning wildlife-friendly plants, or even sharing our wildlife advice online, there’s so many ways to get involved.
“The RSPCA’s Royal connection goes back more than 180 years, and we’re proud to be part of the Coronation celebrations and the Big Help Out. Our volunteers are delighted they can be a part of Coronation celebrations through the Big Help Out.”
Join the RSPCA’s vice president, Steve Backshall, on May 8 for the Big Help Out by signing up to be a Wildlife Friend at www.rspca.org.uk/thebighelpout
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.