The effects Covid-19 on the squirrel project

The current coronavirus crises has no doubt affected everyone hugely. We are extremely lucky that the squirrel team (Myself (Sarah), Ben and Phil) were already home-based, and the Healthy Reds project is fully funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the Landfill Tax Scheme. This means we’ve been able to continue, largely unaffected. As you might expect, a lot of our plans for volunteer involvement and public engagement have been delayed. We are lucky that this has hit early in our project. We have plenty more time to plan and do things, and we have next spring for activities which have to occur during spring (tree planting for example). With the current government advice, we are able to continue with many of our activities. We will continue to monitor the guidelines and advice, and adjust our activities accordingly.

Coronavirus and the Trap loan Scheme

For those of you in our Trap Loan Scheme, if you’re trapping on your own land, you should be able to continue doing this. If you are trapping on someone else’s land it is a little more complicated, and will have to be a case by case decision based on if both parties are happy for it to continue, and the level of travel required. Of course, if anyone decides to stop trapping during this time, it’s important to ensure that traps are left shut, or tied open.

The Wider Trust

Below is the latest statement and call for urgent support from our Chief Executive Officer.

The Covid-19 situation has exacerbated what would already have been a very difficult year for The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW). The grants we usually receive from Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government to help fund our conservation work have not been agreed for the new financial year, leaving a hole in our budgets.

Ash Dieback has affected many of our nature reserves, resulting in an urgent need to find £100,000 to deal with the trees posing the highest risks. This is only for a tiny proportion of our ash trees, only those in close proximity to key infrastructure, but is nonetheless a substantial cost. Then the floods caused damage to some of our most popular walking routes.

On top of this, the restrictions imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19 have meant that our main income source has suddenly stopped.

We earn nearly 50% of our income through tourism-related activities; cafes, shops, holiday accommodation and Skomer landings, and the lockdown comes at our busiest time of year which is disastrous!

For these reasons our WTSWW Board of Trustees has had to make a series of very rapid, difficult and far-reaching decisions. All our visitor centres are closed, as are Skomer and Skokholm Islands, although the staff remain on the Islands to continue their essential conservation work. Most of our work on nature reserves has also had to stop and is again limited to emergency work. We are continuing with our Red Squirrels project and the Living Seas Wales project and finding ways for our staff to work safely within the guidelines.

As of today, 40 staff have been furloughed, leaving a skeleton staffing to maintain the vital functions of the Trust, and respond to issues which will arise over the next few months. We are also very lucky to have dedicated volunteers who will support us during this dreadful time and we appreciate the support shown by our members and donors.

These measures have helped reduce the financial impact of Covid-19, however there is far more to be done to raise sufficient money to replace our lost income, and to ensure our Wildlife Trust has a future… and is still here next year!

These really are worrying times and every donation does make a big difference. Please help us ensure that wildlife has a future in south and West Wales by making a donation however big or small. We need your support now more than ever!

Without easy access to the countryside during the lockdown, I hope that at the end of this, many more people will put much greater value on the outdoors, the natural environment and local wildlife.

Sarah Kessell, Chief Executive Officer.