The main reed-bed
at Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve was set on fire last night (Friday 19 May) just 24 hours
after threats were received from animal rights extremists to escalate action against
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
Over two acres of the threatened habitat were destroyed along with all the wildlife
that could not escape the flames. It was only thanks to prompt intervention by the Fire
Brigade that more was not lost.
The threats were made by telephone on Thursday morning (18 May) following a dawn cull
of American Ruddy Duck on the nature reserve by Government marksmen.
The cull is part of a national conservation initiative - promoted by the Government and
conservation bodies including RSPB - to try to protect the White-Headed Duck in Spain from
extinction by interbreeding with introduced American Ruddy Duck from England.
A previous demonstration at Brandon against the cull - organised by Animal Aid in
February - had passed off peacefully with both sides accepting their differing points of
view. However as news of the cull on Thursday was publicised by the media, so a string of
angry telephone calls were received by the Trust, including anonymous threats to escalate
Surveying the blackened acres, Trust Director Dr Andy Tasker said:
"This is a very sad day for conservation when mindless idiots can destroy acres of
vital reedbed and all the associated wildlife in it whatever their reasons
or beliefs. The fire will have destroyed nests and eggs of birds such as reed warbler and
sedge warbler, and must have killed several reed bunting chicks too. In addition all the
wealth of insect life as well as small mammals such as mice and voles will have perished
in the flames."
"I understand that some people feel passionately against the nationwide cull of
Ruddy Duck," he continued, "but adding to the list of dead birds and other
wildlife by setting fire to a Nature Reserve is hardly promoting the cause of animal
welfare. I urge anyone who has any information to contact the Warwickshire Police
The fire was started deliberately, probably using petrol, at about 9.30pm on Friday
night. Two people were seen acting suspiciously before driving off.