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[20 MAY 00] WARWICKSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST PRESS RELEASE
Brandon Marsh Set On Fire

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 action.

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 immediately."

The fire was started deliberately, probably using petrol, at about 9.30pm on Friday night. Two people were seen acting suspiciously before driving off.
   

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CWN / Environment / Warwickshire Wildlife Trust / 20 May 00

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