Distressing images show impact of litter on wildlife in London's Royal Parks

·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
A stag is tangled in plastic after being attracted to left over picnic scraps left in bags. (Royal Parks)
A stag is tangled in plastic after being attracted to left over picnic scraps left in bags. (Royal Parks)

Distressing pictures show the costly impact that litter left in London parks has on the wildlife that live on the grounds.

While people have flocked to parks following months of lockdown in the UK, what they have been leaving behind has proved hazardous to animals, the Royal Parks charity said.

In the last year 1,982 tonnes of waste were collected from across the Royal Parks – the equivalent weight of 157 new London Routemaster buses.

It costs the charity at least £1.3million a year to collect and dispose of litter discarded across the 5,000 acres of parkland in order to protect wildlife.

A cormorant has its head and beak trapped in the discarded plastic rings from a pack of beer, hindering it from catching and eating food. (Royal Parks)
A cormorant has its head and beak trapped in the discarded plastic rings from a pack of beer, hindering it from catching and eating food. (Royal Parks)
A white-headed duck at St James's Park has a blue rubber band caught around its neck which could cause problems feeding and breathing. (Royal Parks)
A white-headed duck at St James's Park has a blue rubber band caught around its neck which could cause problems feeding and breathing. (Royal Parks)

Piles of bags filled up with leftover picnic waste attracts wildlife like stags and deer, who can find themselves tangled up in plastic waste, causing them distress.

They may even accidentally eat the plastic bags, which gets stuck in their intestines and causes them pain and makes it difficult for them to digest food.

Watch: Revellers condemned after breaching COVID rules and leaving piles of litter on the ground

Deer can also become distressed if they get plastic bags tangled in their antlers and may cause a stampede which is dangerous to the public.

Other waste left in parks includes pizza boxes, glass bottles, dog faeces and used PPE, according to Royal Parks.

Small animals and birds can climb inside plastic bags or get their heads stuck in bottles or cans and suffocate.

Other shocking images released show a cormorant with a plastic beer-pack ring round its neck and a pelican juggling with a plastic bottle in the water, which could prove deadly if they accidentally swallowed one.

A pelican was spotted juggling plastic bottles. (Royal Parks)
A pelican was spotted juggling plastic bottles. (Royal Parks)

The Royal Parks charity, which manages London’s eight historic parks and other important green spaces in the capital, is highlighting the impact of discarded trash on wildlife as part of its Help Nature Thrive campaign this summer.

The campaign is asking visitors to “leave no trace” and to take their rubbish home or put it in the bins if there is space.

Visitors are also reminded to not light BBQs, which are not permitted in the parks and which can prove hazardous to wildlife, particularly when the grass is dry.

This plastic netting bag was fished out from a pond in Hyde Park with the remains of a smooth newt which had become tangled in the netting and died. (Royal Parks)
This plastic netting bag was fished out from a pond in Hyde Park with the remains of a smooth newt which had become tangled in the netting and died. (Royal Parks)

It is illegal to leave litter in the Royal Parks and, under the park regulations, offenders could be fined.

Tom Jarvis, director of parks at Royal Parks, said: “Sadly, we’ve all too often seen the devastating impact that dumping litter, leaving BBQs smouldering or treading into protected areas of the parks can have on the environment and wildlife.

“Taking that moment to decide to clear away a bottle or small piece of plastic rather than leaving it behind could make all the difference to the lives of the parks’ wonderful wildlife.”

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