LETTERSFrom Ray Harrington-Vail, Newport:
I AM somewhat saddened so many people have decided to attack Matthew Chatfield, the IW Council head of parks and countryside.
Those of us who work in the fields of conservation and ecology hold him in high regard. He has 25 years’ experience in managing sites for wildlife and care of open spaces.
As a private individual, he runs www.naturenet.net — a renowned website full of useful resources and information.
He has to carry out the policies of his employers, who have, in my opinion, failed to defend him.
Parks and open spaces have very limited budgets at the best of times and these have been slashed in recent years. There is now only one ranger to look after the nature reserves rather than three, and only one parks inspector instead of four.
The decision whether to conserve a particular species is not based on what is cute and cuddly. It is science-based management designed to care for habitats and food chains. Thus, we do not reach for the Kleenex every time a bird eats a worm, or a very native carrion crow takes a baby duckling.
Our knowledge is not based on Beatrix Potter or Walt Disney. Nature has a way of thinning out and preventing over-population and part of that control is by predators.
The way to sustainably conserve native species, anywhere in the world, is not in zoos, which can only play a small part, but rather in the wild. The giant panda is pretty much doomed, as the Chinese government — so praised by one correspondent in the CP — has failed to protect their habitat. It seems its idea of nature conservation is to put these animals in a media freak show.
There has been much talk about ponds from people with no or little knowledge of their management. The silt in them provides a habitat for invertebrates, which in turn support amphibians and waterfowl.
However, the artificial feeding of ducks, geese and swans can increase their numbers to unsustainable numbers — to the detriment of water quality and other rarer, (but less pretty) wildlife. Bread is an unhealthy foodstuff for these creatures and the very food that encourages rats.
Thanks to the work of Matthew Chatfield and his team, thousands of hours of volunteers’ time has been given by members of the public, who actually know something about nature conservation.
I hope others in this field will join with me in defending science-based conservation and speak out against bullying of those seeking to do their job in difficult circumstances.