In the fictional idyll of the Wind in the Willows riverbank, Ratty would be waking up now to the hope and promise of a new spring. But, sadly, the truth is that Ratty is in fact a water vole, which makes him one of our most endangered species. Making it through the winter is frankly the least of his problems.
The water vole population has plummeted from around eight million to less than 400,000 since the 1960s. The problem for this most iconic of waterside animals is two-fold. Firstly the American Mink, that can work their way through an entire population of water voles in a matter of weeks. Secondly, the destruction of their natural habitat, either from intensive farming methods, or through poor management of our riverbanks.
A Change Of Fortune
The Canal & River Trust is perfectly placed to help save the vole from extinction, as some of its most popular habitats are within our waterways. Thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery one such unique place is along the Grand Union Canal, the UK’s longest canal which runs from London to Birmingham. Innovative ‘vole ladders’ have been installed to provide access to vital new habitat and connecting the canal with a colony of water voles that are isolated in a nearby pond. The work is being carried out at Hanwell Lock Flight in Ealing, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the most impressive lock flight in London.
I Spy A Water Vole
If you’re out and about on the waterways there are some easy tracking clues to watch out for:
- Feeding close to home is the safest option, so the vegetation around their burrow entrance will look neatly trimmed like a lawn.
- Nearby reeds are cut off at a distinctive way with a sharp angle.
- Their distinctive “plop” into the water, which is thought to be vital in their community as a warning call.
- Scurrying along the canal banks looking for food, such as grasses and buds, and dipping in and out of their burrows in the bank.
This is part of a series of guest blogs written by charities supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Today’s guest blog comes from Leela O’Dea, Environmental Manager at Canal & River Trust who talks about how important it is to save the British water vole.
With the Scottish Independence Referendum set to take place on the 18th of September 2014, it’s time for the third sector to start thinking about what an independent Scotland might mean for charity operations in the UK.
There is still no clear indication which way this referendum will go. According to recent polls, 32% of Scots are for independence from the UK, and 47% are against. The remainder are still undecided.
As of yet, it would seem many charities have not fully thought about the implications an independent Scotland could have on their work. 85% of charities said their board had not asked for further information on the possible effects.
A lot of charities are steering clear of the issue entirely, as they want to avoid being drawn into the political debate, which could of course split people’s opinion on them and damage their fundraising efforts. And of course, independence may not happen, so no charity wants to be seen as having backed the wrong ideology.
Charities like Oxfam, which operates in 94 countries, do not foresee any difficulties, as one more border will not affect their brand strategy and fundraising plans. However, the same cannot be said for smaller domestic charities.
The challenges faced by smaller domestic charities are numerous. First of all, branding. How will they brand themselves if they previously branded themselves as a UK charity? It will cost money to rebrand, which in turn will dilute the budget for the marketing they do for fundraising.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations fears charities will have to spend more money to do the same thing and get the same results. Another issue with branding concerning charities is for organisations which use the Union Jack in their logos. The Saltire will be removed, so how will that fit in with their image and their key messages?
Will charities have to communicate differently? Will donors in Scotland expect for their money to stay in Scotland? Will the charities be able to raise as much as before? Interesting research showed that out of 1,000 English and Welsh people, 25% would be less likely to donate to a charity that had some operations in Scotland, and 48% would be less likely to give to a charity that operated only in Scotland.
Charities may have to take an all or nothing approach, in that they withdraw from Scotland all together or they completely adapt their branding, message and fundraising. So it is up to charities which approach they may have to take.
One thing that is clear is that an independent Scotland would majorly affect the third sector landscape in the UK. It remains to be seen for better or for worse, or whether it will even happen at all.
People’s Postcode Lottery supports charity projects all over Britain. If you’d like to play for cash prizes every day while supporting brilliant charities and projects, then sign up now!
*Statistics taken from Third Sector publication
What are you doing for WWF’s Earth Hour?
It’s that time of year again! WWF’s Earth Hour is fast approaching. At 8.30pm on 23 March, hundreds of millions of people will join a massive global “lights out” to show their concern about the impact climate change is having on people and the natural world. From Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro to the great pyramids of Egypt, from the Sydney Opera House to our own Edinburgh Castle, buildings, landmarks, homes and businesses will plunge into darkness for one hour.
As we all switch off our lights on Saturday 23 March, we want to think about the kind of energy we use. Because to create a better future for our planet we need to move away from dirty fossil fuels and onto clean green renewable energy which works with the awesome power of nature, not against it.
So, what are you planning to do for Earth Hour? The great thing about WWF’s Earth Hour is that it’s a fun event, and one that whole families or communities can join in with. Whether you decide on a candlelit dinner with your family or a torchlit walk with your community, there are plenty of ideas to choose from.
Visit our website for ideas of what you can do and to find out what’s going on in your community. You can also sign up to support the event and become part of a growing community of people who have shown commitment to play their part in tackling climate change. Our world is brilliant! Together we can keep it that way.
Why not check out more at www.wwfscotland.org.uk/earthhour
Director, WWF Scotland
*Copyright Maverick Agency for photos in blog post.