News & Views

Taking the Highroad

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Roadkill is a big Problem Globally. Our Volunteer Ella Tarlton is now in Melbourne, Australia, and offers her perspective on what can be done to lessen the risk to animals.

We’ve all seen it. The twisted, broken bodies of animals slumped on the sides of motorways. Decaying remains of foxes, badgers and hedgehogs, reduced to nothing but matted fur and blood, mashed into the concrete. A slight swerve to avoid the mess, and we move on with our lives. Or should we? Given the alarming decline in wildlife populations, I believe it is our duty to start taking roadkill more seriously.

I currently live in Australia, where the roadkill is particularly devastating. The first time I saw a kangaroo, koala or wombat it was in the form of roadkill. I am used to seeing similar sights in England, but what saddens me is how disturbingly frequent these cases are here. Though it’s hard to find official statistics for the whole of Australia, on average 32 animals are killed on Tasmanian roads every hour. That’s over 300,000 animals per year in the small state of Tasmania alone – just imagine what this figure could be for the whole continent.

Animal collisions threaten many endangered species, such as the Tasmanian devil, the numbat, the woylie, the pygmie possum, the southern cassowary and the quokka... the list goes on and on. The problem is that roadways cut off connectivity for animals, stopping them from being able to safely migrate from one area to another. Misplaced animals have learned to adapt by moving to new territories in times of chaos, such as bushfires or drought. However in modern times, the only possible routes to safety often involve crossing numerous major roads. Apart from habitat fragmentation, roads also have a wall effect; many animals will simply refuse to migrate through such unnaturally noisy and light environments. New evidence suggests that this had led to genetic isolation, which in turn increases the risk of extinction due to inbreeding and the loss of genetic variability.

All of this may seem somewhat depressing, but fortunately there are positive measures we can take to help wildlife overcome these obstacles. Wildlife crossings are structures that allow animals to pass safely across man-made barriers. These include underpass and overpass tunnels built above or below roadways, amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, and even tree canopy bridges. All of these structures are deigned to provide semi-natural corridors that allow animals to safely cross roads, tracks and other barriers.

Here in Australia, koala tunnels and bridges have proven to be highly effective on busy roads. Highwires have also been installed for possums to cross roads, which has also proven to be very successful. In my opinion, more money and resources should be put into these ingenious crossings. Not only are they relatively cheap to construct, they also have an impressive success rate, with animals quickly adapting to use them. I would like to see more wildlife crossings up and down the country.

Until then, there are many measures you can take to reduce the risk of animal mortality on the roads:
• When you drive, be very careful, especially while turning corners. Be even more cautious between dusk and dawn, as this is when most accidents happen.
• Research your local wildlife group. Make a note of their number and have it handy so if you need to call them, you can.
• Make the most of your lights! If driving more than 80km/hr put use your high beam. If driving at 60km/hr, use low beam.
• Never throw litter out of car. This is not only bad for the environment, it can attract wildlife towards the road.
• If you see wildlife on the road, slow down and pull over to allow them to cross (if it is safe to do so.) If that’s not possible, honk at them.

If you do hit animal or spot an animal by the side of the road, stop if it is safe to do so and check if the animal is alive. If the animal is still alive, contact a wildlife rescue group in your area. Finally, be sure to move the body away from the road, as dead animals attract scavengers.

ella
If we all took these measures to reduce the risk of collision, and increase the chances for injured animals to survive, it really would make a tangible difference. So next time you have an opportunity to save a life, think of the bigger picture and don’t just turn the other way.

Refill Brighton Latest

4 December 2017
More than 100 businesses sign up to Refill Brighton & Hove - a campaign to reduce consumption of single-use plastic bottles by offering free tap water to the public
 
 
In just two months, over 100 businesses in Brighton & Hove - including some of the city's most popular businesses Small Batch Coffee Company, The Flour Pot Bakery, Marwood's Cafe, Fitness First, ibis Hotel and traders in the Open Market - have all signed up to the Refill Brighton & Hove scheme.
A partnership between Brighton Peace & Environment Centre, Bristol-based City to Sea (who piloted the initiative in Bristol in 2015), and a team of committed volunteers, Refill Brighton & Hove encourages us to fall back in love with tap water and prevent plastic pollution - one bottle at a time.
 
What is Refill?
Refill Brighton & Hove is part of a nationwide scheme that aims to make filling up your reusable water bottle as easy and convenient as possible by introducing a city-wide network of 'Refill Stations' - places where people are free to ask for their bottles to be refilled with no obligation to purchase anything.

Participating cafés, bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and other businesses show their commitment by displaying a sticker in their window, and adding themselves to the Refill map. A free downloadable app available from refill.org.uk shows exact locations of refill points, including publicly accessible mains water taps (such as the ones on The Level and Hove beach huts).
 
 
Why is it important?
In the UK an estimated 800 plastic bottles a minute are either ending up in landfill or as litter, many of them make their way into our waterways and seas. Globally, 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the oceans each year.

Brighton & Hove is a seaside city with a unique mix of residents, workers, tourists and students, and faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities: Refill aims to stem the flow of plastic pollution by encouraging people to change their behavior - starting with how we consume water.
 

Mala Nathan, Refill Brighton & Hove's Project Co-ordinator said: 
 
"We're delighted by the overwhelmingly positive response by businesses in the city to this campaign. We are collectively becoming all too aware of the environmental impact of our consumption of single-use plastics, from drinking straws to take-away packaging. Refill is a simple campaign that can drastically reduce our consumption of single use plastic bottles, as well as encouraging a culture of community and healthy hydration.

"Brighton Peace & Environment Centre is leading on the Refill Brighton initiative, and since September we have been focusing on establishing our network of Refill Stations around the city. Next year, we'll be launching the network to the public and looking at ways to encourage people to change their behaviour and start refilling. We also plan to distribute reusable water bottles at major events such as Brighton Marathon and Pride, and at key locations such as Brighton Station."
 
Louise Tamadon-Nejad, Marketing Manager of the Flour Pot Bakery said:
 
"We try our best at the Flour Pot Bakery to do our bit for the planet, whenever we can. With an estimated 12m tonnes of plastic entering the oceans each year, and residues being routinely found in fish, sea birds and marine mammals, we must act to support local initiatives being set up to combat this.

We believe that Refill Brighton shares our values in looking to end single use plastic, wherever possible. Across our 5 stores in Brighton and Hove, we offer you a place to refill your own water bottle, without feeling awkward. We aim to help Refill Brighton cut down on the use of plastic water bottles drastically, reduce litter and create a healthier environment for our community".

Refill Brighton & Hove is now looking for a headline sponsor to support its high-profile activity across the city in 2018. Interested businesses can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ends.
 

PRESS & MEDIA ENQUIRIES
For interview and information requests, contact: 
Rasheed Rahman, Refill Brighton & Hove Communications Co-ordinator
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 07968 39 1763
High-res images can be downloaded here (please credit http://rosemaryandporkbelly.co.uk)
 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

About Refill
Refill is a national, practical tap water campaign that aims to make refilling your bottle as easy, convenient and cheap as bottle by introducing refill points on every street. Refill is currently happening in Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cornwall, Dorset, Devon, Bath, Bradford-on-Avon and Bicester & Banbury.

About Brighton Peace & Environment Centre
BPEC is a development education centre and charity based in the heart of Brighton. We are at an exciting stage with three new projects underway: Refill Brighton is our project to reduce and ultimately eliminate disposable plastic water bottle use in the city; Energywise is our new affordable warmth project that will engage those most at risk from fuel poverty; and Breathe in Brighton, an initiative to improve our air quality.
 
About City to Sea
City to Sea C.I.C is a Bristol-based initiative created to tackle marine plastic pollution at source. Funded projects to date include 'Switch the Stick' - a successful national campaign to stop plastic pollution from cotton buds at source, and 'Refill', a simple yet effective campaign to encourage free tap water refills across the UK.

Irradaway Dolphins

 

After a 10km cycle ride in the blistering Laos heat, we finally arrived, dripping with sweat, at the vast expanse of the Mekong river. Stretching out to the horizon and scattered with small bushy islands as far as the eye can see, one can easily comprehend why this stretch of the river has been dubbed “The 4000 Islands.” Me and my two travelling companions are here to see the elusive Irradaway dolphin, one of the top attractions here in Don Kong. We all clamber into a slightly sketchy looking boat and are off on our way. It’s not long before we spot 3 dolphins, their curved, finned backs rising gracefully out of the water. Sadly, the encounter is extremely short lived.; they dive down and swim away from us, eventually resurfacing across the invisible boarder into Cambodian waters. “We no follow,” the driver informs us, shaking his head, “they in Cambodia now.” On our return to the mainland, our luck takes a turn for the worse. The noisy engine begins to splutter and fail, leaving us at the mercy of the river current, and for quite some time we drift hopelessly in the wrong direction. To make matters worse, distant forks of lighting spark downwards from the black sky, followed by mighty cracks of thunder. A storm is coming. Fat drops of rain begin pelting us from above as the wind picks up rapidly. The man driving the boat gives a little whimper (never a good sign) as he tries desperately to restart the engine. “We must stop here, too dangerous!” He tells us, as we collide onto one of the many islands. Stranded, shivering and slightly concerned, we wait for what seems like hours in the middle of the tropical storm.

Eventually we make it back to the mainland wondering if the trip was really worth it. But this is Laos; things rarely go exactly as planned, so I am grateful we got to see the dolphins at all. After all, there are only 5 Irradaway dolphins left in the country, meaning that we saw 60% of the entire Laos population. This fact is surprising, given the cultural and spiritual significance of the dolphins to Laos and Cambodian people. In fact, Irradaway Dolphins are pretty much the only animals exempt from ending up on a dinner plate here. According to local folklore, the creatures are sacred; human souls in dolphin skin. The story tells of a beautiful maiden with the body of a fish who was forced to marry a magical Python. Distraught and desperate to avoid her fate, she decided to cast herself into the Mekong river, but her attempt at suicide failed and she was transformed into a dolphin. The Dolphins’ significance to local communities goes far beyond the mythology, for they also provide an important source of income for communities involved in dolphin-watching ecotourism. Furthermore, their protection is crucial to the overall health of the Mekong river. 

So the question begs, why are their numbers dwindling so drastically, and what can be done to save them? As with much aquatic life, the main threat to the dolphins are fishing nets. Bycatch and accidental capture in fishing gear is the primary cause of their endangered status. The World Wildlife Fund is working with locals to reduce Bycatch in a number of ways. They teach local communities the importance of conservation, develop community fishery management zones, and reduce fishing pressure by supporting alternative livelihood development. It is yet to be seen if these threat reduction strategies will be successful in preserving the local population, but the WWF remains optimistic, and their work continues to this day. (If you would like to support their efforts you can donate to the WWF:WWF.panda.org)

All this talk of wildlife loss and endangered species has gotten me thinking about the global implications. If we cannot save such an enigmatic creature as the Irradaway dolphin, what hope do we have for lesser known endangered creatures that are also crucial to ecosystems? What will become of the ugly Kakapo fish? What is the fate of the lesser known Leaping Lesbian Lizards? Some 110,000 species are now listed as critically endangered, but we only really hear about the most iconic and majestic creatures; the tigers, the pandas, the dolphins. Even I am guilty of this; I am yet to write a blog post about an obscure species in need of saving. I suppose charities select the most charismatic animals in the hope of leveraging their inherent cuteness to create broader conservation awareness. This seems like a logical strategy, rather than providing an eclectic sampling of species to show the vast diversity of animals at risk. However, there has been much debate over whether this is the best tactic to use in conservation efforts. Chris Packham caused much controversy over his statement claiming that pandas should be left to face extinction. Writing for the Guardian, he argues that “conservation, both nationally and globally, has a limited amount of resources, and I think we’re going to have to make some hard, pragmatic choices… of course, it’s easier to raise money for something fluffy… But we have to accept that some species are stronger than others.” 

Many environmentalists argue that we must focus on the more iconic animals in order to get people’s attention and raise awareness. But I can’t help seeing where Packham is coming from. Limited resources must surely go to the animals with the highest chance of survival, and their worth should be measured by their importance to the ecosystem, rather than their capacity to pull at people’s heart strings. The Irrawaddy dolphin, however, manages to combine both qualities. They are a not only a symbol of the magnificent if the Mekong river, but are also crucial to the general health of the entire ecosystem. I feel honoured to have been able to see them in the wild and would encourage people to support efforts to conserve them.

Refill Brighton

 
Refill in Brighton: We only have one sea.

Walking along Brighton beach, you see a couple holding hands. In their other hand: bottled water. You might ask: who would find fault with this? It sounds idyllic at first and you might wonder what could be wrong? The bottles they are holding might end up in the sea they are walking next to and admiring, endangering its inhabitant species.
Living in the beautiful seaside town of Brighton, we have a strong connection to the sea. Looking after our beautiful beach is in our interest. More than in many other places in the UK, in Brighton there is a strong sense of connection to our environment, owing some extent to the great tradition of Green attitudes in the city.
Therefore, Refill could not have found a better place to take over next.

A project aiming to reduce plastic use by getting people to refill their bottles and convincing business to sign up for an app that shows people where they can do so.

Refill has its roots in Bristol, where it was launched by City to Sea in September 2015. There are now more than 200 refill points in the centre of Bristol. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Bath and Bradford-on-Avon have followed suite and other UK cities, including Brighton, are launching soon.

Why do we want to achieve the same in Brighton? Single-use plastic bottles take hundreds of years to decompose and they often make it into our waterways and the sea, threatening aquatic life.  By refilling, we not only take away the need to recycle thus saving an enormous amount of money and energy; we also look after marine wildlife. As Brightonians, we should really try and conserve what we have right on our doorstep.
Refill Brighton will be launching the app in the forthcoming months and our volunteers are chomping at the bit to get out there and talk to businesses about the benefits of joining. Participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses will receive a round, blue sticker they can display in their window, inviting thirsty passers-by to come on in and fill up their bottle – for free. Anyone can download the app to find Refill points or add these themselves. There are points to be collected and great rewards to be won.

Once the map of Brighton is busy with Refill points, we’ll start the next phase: telling everyone about the benefits of refilling to people: students, tourists, mums, walkers. Brighton is full of active, fun folk always on the go. They need to know how easy it is to do your bit for the environment: use our app, find refill points, refill and quench your thirst. They will save money too.
We are currently spreading the word about the project and you can follow us on social media to find out about our progress. Our Twitter handle is @refillbrighton and we also have a Facebook page and Instagram. We are always looking for new energy and enthusiasm, so if you’d like to volunteer as a Refill Ambassador, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on any of these platforms and download our volunteer application form.
Read more about how Refill started in Bristol.
Find out more about marine plastic pollution.

Refill Brighton website

Free the Bears

The heat was oppressive as I clambered through the dense, steaming jungle. I had arrived at the Kung Si Falls, just a 40 minute tuk tuk ride from the bustling capital city of Laos, Luang Prabang. After paying a modest entry fee, I followed a twisting path through the trees, stepping over crumbling rocks and tree-roots the size of anacondas. As I walked along the trail, excited to see the famous waterfalls, I discovered I was surrounded by huge fenced off enclosures with hammocks, tree houses and streams running through them. Curiosity pulled me closer. Peering through the fence I saw fuzzy, friendly-looking creatures with light brown muzzles and bright little eyes peeping through their fur… Asiatic Black Bears! They had a slow, laid-back nature, and seemed happy and content in their surroundings. Some were lounging around in hammocks, others lazily splashing in the cool fresh-water streams, or climbing up man-made tree houses. As I watched the animals in delight I got talking to Sarah, a lovely enthusiastic volunteer, who told me all about the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is part of the Free the Bears Fund, a charity that provides support to a wide range of projects across Asia. The rescued bears at the sanctuary had been saved from a number of horrific situations; some were kept as “pets” in terrible conditions, others were found in traps that poachers had left out, and many were rescued from the bear bile industry. Sarah’s passion for the animals shone through, as she passionately told me about some of the bears’ individual personality traits. There was Kobi, a 3 legged male who lost a leg in a trap, but didn’t let his disability interfere with his love life. In fact, he was so wildly popular with the females he had to be separated from them, as they were driven wild with lust in his presence! There was Lyna, a shy older bear overcoming anxiety and agoraphobia after years of being kept alone in a tiny cage. I was even allowed access into the staff-only area to meet the orphaned cubs, who’s boisterous and playful nature was particularly endearing. Sarah explained to me that sadly the majority of the bears would not be able to be released back into the wild because of their familiarity with humans; the danger of them wondering back into villages was all too much to risk.

The main threat to bears in Laos, and indeed in many part of Asia, is the horrific bear bile industry. It is estimated that 12,000 bears are farmed for bile inChina,South Korea,Laos, Vietnam, andMyanmar. The digestive fluid produced in their livers has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years, and is known to be useful for treating liver and gall bladder conditions. Though there are now many readily available synthetic alternatives with the same medicinal properties, lack of education and the desire to uphold traditional practice means the bear bile industry is still very much thriving. Taking bears from the wild is obviously detrimental to the wild population of bears, but the other pressing issue is the amount of unnecessary pain and cruelty associated with bear bile farms. Bears are kept in tiny cages which are often too small for them to turn around in. Most of the bears will spend their entire lives, (up to 30 years) in these cages, until they die of starvation, dehydration, disease or malignant tumors. Typically, bear bile is extracted through crude methods, such as a metal rod which is jammed directly into the liver. More often than not, these wounds are left untreated. It’s hard to imagine the agony of a metal rod repeatedly slitting open your old, infected wound, never allowing you to have time to heal. All this, spent in a tiny, dirty, isolated cage. I know that this is extremely upsetting to think about, but it is the reality of life for many bears across Asia.

Luckily, there are ways you can help this situation. If you fancy a rewarding, life changing trip, you can volunteer at the Cambodia Free The Bears Sanctuary. Not only will this give you a once in a lifetime opportunity to work behind the scenes with these incredible animals, you will also be making a tangible difference. For more information, or to apply for this, contact Free the Bears at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Alternatively you can donate, become a member or sponsor a bear. To do any of this visit their website at www.freethebears.org.

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