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Appeal To Help Pirbright Red Deer After ‘Devastating Wildfire’ Continues To Burn

Published on: 8 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 10 Aug, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

As fire at Pirbright Ranges continues to burn more than three weeks after a wildfire affecting more than 650 hectares of pristine heathland, Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) has called for urgent donations to cover the £40,000 needed for new fencing, vet checks and food for the 200 red deer that help maintain it.

SWT said the red deer are in good health but need access to food and water and monitored closely. Image by Jon Hawkins.

SWT says the grazing red deer, owned by SWT, prevent scrub from taking over the Ministry of Defence site.

The impact of the fire on Pirbright Ranges, one of the largest areas of lowland heath in Surrey and home to many rare and threatened species, also potentially affects rare ground-nesting birds including nightjars, Dartford warblers and woodlark and reptiles like slow worms, grass snakes and adders.

See Wildfire Risk Very High In Surrey As Global Warming Gets Local

The 200-strong herd of red deer on Pirbright Ranges help to keep the scrub down. Image by Jon Hawkins.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s director of reserves management, James Herd, said it would take up to 12 years for the heathland to return to “full health”.

He said: “Wildfires have put Surrey on the front line of the climate and nature emergency and we urgently need extra support to meet the challenge. All donations we receive will go directly to ensuring their welfare and the continuing safety of Surrey’s heathlands and their unique plants and animals.”

50 hectares of Hankley Common were hit by a wildfire on July 24, 2022. Surrey Fire & Rescue Service was said to have been “stretched to its limits” with fire crews from London, Hampshire and Sussex attending the incident.

Claire Whitehouse, the Green Party candidate for Pirbright in the 2021 by-election, said: “This rare local habitat is at particular risk not just from fire, but also development, such as the expansion of the M25 junction set to destroy yet more local heathland.

“The increasing number of hot, dry days is making wildfires far more frequent, severe and difficult to tackle, which will worsen as the climate crisis escalates. Yet our heroic emergency services continue to face massive cuts, with firefighters again called in from surrounding counties and London to tackle this blaze despite facing their own wildfire emergencies.

“However, both Truss and Sunak have pledged to make still further cuts to public services and to climate action. Now more than ever, we need the opposite – urgent investment in mitigation and adaptation measures for the climate crisis, as well as properly funded public services including countryside management.”

Hankley Common wildfire July 2022.

David Nolan, area commander for Surrey Fire & Rescue Service said: “We are urging people to be wildfire aware. We have seen an increase in the number of wildfires we are attending recently and are asking residents to help keep Surrey safe. Please pack a picnic instead of a barbecue, and don’t have campfires or bonfires when the weather is dry. Ensure you dispose of cigarettes and litter correctly.”

More information about how to support the appeal is at https://www.surreywildlifetrust.org/wildfire-appeal/

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test One Response to Appeal To Help Pirbright Red Deer After ‘Devastating Wildfire’ Continues To Burn

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    August 8, 2022 at 11:24 pm

    I am sorry but the Surrey Wildlife Trust is tackling this from the wrong direction. Having introduced the non-native red deer to Pirbright Ranges to graze, for the Trust’s advantage, they are its solely responsible for them including vet checks and the provision of additional food at this time, which any farmer would be doing for his cattle.

    Don’t some SWT sites, like many National Trust sites, have Belted Galloway Cattle on them? I haven’t seen a similar financial appeal from the NT but perhaps the difference is that the farmers manage them.

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