How to Lose Members and Alienate People: More Fall-Out from Lodge Hill

It has been a curious week or so in the world of conservation in London culminating in some soul searching and perhaps the rolling of a particularly big head.

Lets start at Lodge Hill. Out in Kent, the Lodge Hill SSSI, celebrated nesting site for Nightingales, has been approved for development of 5,000 new homes, to be created by Land Securities. This one is set to run and run and could become a key flashpoint and signaller of the ever growing and perennial Homes vs Nature argument. There’s going to be a lot of great content poured out on Lodge Hill over the coming months. We’ve had the predictable complaints about ‘feathered obstacles’ from the ‘Greenest Government everTM’. It has seen the promotion of the predictable ‘well if you are anti-homes then you must be anti-people’ rhetoric, whereby everyone who has a pro-nature agenda is tarred with the brush of misanthropy (ok, true in my case), and more disconcertingly portrayed as the very thing we often work against: land managers intent on

The Homeless: Now 100% more hated by environmentalists

The Homeless: Now 100% more hated by environmentalists

maintaining land for their own interests, ignoring those of the public. The argument basically runs that by preventing the building of homes we are deliberately, and happily, keeping people on the streets. It’s a neat trick, attempting to turn the environmentalists against the deprived, and obviously a load of bunkum; I suspect the 5,000 new homes will not be homing the needy and desperate. So far, so ‘same old, same old’, but here’s where it starts to get interesting.

While Land Securities are busy pushing for the destruction of the Lodge Hill SSSI in Medway, they have also moved to install their Financial Controller on the board of trustees for the London Wildlife Trust. It’s easy to see what their angle is here, this would have been a huge PR coup, not to mention the benefit of being able to influence decisions at the highest level of London’s biggest conservation charity. It is perhaps more difficult to see what LWT would get out of the deal. Yes, Marc Cadwaladr brings obvious financial skills, but are these skills that cannot be found from other sources, in-house perhaps? Are the financial skills, and presumably revenue streams, that Cadwaladr brings experience of, the kind of areas that an environmental charity should welcome being connected with? Yes, an environmental charity needs all the financial skills and experience it can get, particularly those which are intent on adopting a more ‘business-like’ model, but there are other, more gaping holes, here; The current board of trustees, and indeed staff, at LWT are not exactly representative, of the community. This is a larger problem all conservation charities are currently faced with, but for the London Wildlife Trust, it is pretty poor.

Surely someone at LWT must have seen what Land Securities were trying to do here? But no, among some baffling quotes in The Guardian piece from LWT was this:

“Marc Cadwaladr, if he is elected to serve as a trustee for London Wildlife Trust, would not do so as a staff member of Land Securities, but as a volunteer who, in his spare time, could bring significant financial skills, capabilities and experience to the trust.”

I’m still trying to get my head around this one. So, he would be a trustee and while he was undertaking his duties as trustee he would not be a member of staff for Land Securities but would be a volunteer for the London Wildlife Trust, but he would still, presumably, continue to work for Land Securities when he was not fulfilling his trustee duties. Eh? Does he resign his position with Land Securities every time he undertakes trustee duties and is then reappointed when finished? It’s all rather unpalatable and not a little deluded.

Then there is the rather sinister question of just how the London Wildlife Trust was proposing sneaking this past its members. Ahead of the AGM and nominations for trustee positions, LWTs website stated (and as of today, 27 Sept, still states) ‘As we have the same number of candidates as vacancies we do not need to hold a ballot of members’, neatly sidestepping any potential (and obvious) opposition that would occur from the nominations. This, according to The Guardian, was later clarified to state that members could vote either by attending the annual meeting or by arranging proxy votes. Would this have made a difference? I, for one, would like to know just how many votes the trustees and senior members of staff who had seemed intent on pushing the appointment through, would have carried.

Now, the London Wildlife Trust, unlike many of the other Wildlife Trusts, does not rely to such a degree on membership subscriptions, but they still form a large part of the income. By attempting to make this appointment, they have risked alienating and losing may of these members, seemingly in favour of pursuing other financial means. But even without the membership subscriptions, the will and support of the public is all for an environmental charity, lose that and they may as well all go home.

A more damming indictment of the state of affairs at LWT is the complete lack of knowledge most members of staff appeared to have about the potential appointment. One senior staff member indicated that a large portion of the workforce knew nothing of the issue until it was published in The Guardian this week. This smacks of something a little underhand going on, and there certainly seems to be something more to the story.

Cadwaladr has now withdrawn his nomination, saying “it doesn’t feel right to let my name go forward for election as a trustee of the London Wildlife Trust.” But how on earth had the other trustees and SMT at LWT allowed them self to think that it felt right? Judging by the lack of knowledge of ground-level staff and the slightly dubious-looking election process, they did know but intended to push it forward regardless. This complete lack of respect for both its members and staff will have serious repercussions for key figures at the Trust and on this occasion the Chief Executive may have finally overplayed his hand*.

*Update April 2015: Chief Executive of LWT has now departed. Whether this was connected to Land Securities or this hatchet job with its tiny readership, I can not confirm

Nature Blogs: Ruined by Hipsters

If you are working, volunteering or looking to get ahead in conservation, if you have a vague interest in nature and a good camera, and perhaps more pertinently if you are a middle class urbanite with a pokey garden and pretensions of being a writer, the chances are that you’ve got a blog. Chances are your writing is littered with simile, metaphor, imagery and dirty great chunks of purple prose.

Stephen Poole last year wrote an article describing nature writing as bourgeois escapism, but I’d certainly like to distance myself from what was an ill conceived and scientifically naïve rant (comparing the issue of invasive species to immigration and the EDL is a common retort by those with an axe to grind against environmentalists but it is misguided and offensive, serving only to highlight the authors ignorance). Indeed, Poole’s argument was subsequently dismembered by both Mabey and Monbiot, and if I were looking for an example of what I admire and look for in modern proponents of the genre, I would not go much further than these two. It is the idealisation of nature with which I take issue, and a large portion of the guilt for this idealisation must be left at the door of urban-centric media and enthusiasts in east London flats who fancy themselves the next Emerson or Thoreau.

Yes, I understand that I am opening myself up to claims of hypocrisy, but I’ve never understood why you would have a cake and not eat it.

Gratuitous picture of a cake. Which I ate.

Gratuitous picture of a cake. Which I ate.

There are different groups worth exploring here: those who would classify themselves as writers and those who would classify themselves as conservationists. When done well and with something to say, both have merit. However, those with a different agenda now saturate the genre. New media has a lot to answer for, but the production of content for contents sake has diluted the quality of real nature writing with regular missives about the joys of watching urban foxes frolic in your backyard. If you have an interest in the natural environment, you may not want to hear from a Shoreditch hipster with a sudden epiphany about nature (or epiphany that nature writing is the next gravy train). Practitioners in the sector are much more likely to hold your interest. There are many underrepresented areas in nature writing that I personally would love to hear from. Where are those who are in or work with the farming industry to improve biodiversity on farms? Where are the writings of those working at the sharp edge of conservation? But the genre has been overrun, and the majority of those who write about nature now would fit Poole’s charge of indulging in escapism. It is certainly true that much of the content now produced fits a certain demographic in terms of writer and audience.

Maybe I am speaking overly from the perspective of a scientist and practitioner, but I see the role of nature writing as educational, not just an excuse to describe a list of nice things you have seen in verbose, flowery prose. This does not hold the interest unless you are Wordsworth, and you are not. This whimsy and romanticism of nature writing, particularly those of the urban-centric, often neglect to inform and educate. Anthropomorphism and simile are rife, comparison of ecological players to cultural touchstones rampant. If I see another piece comparing, say, the world of insects to Game of Thrones, I may put my fist through the screen*.

But my complaint is not new. Even Thoreau, worthy but impenetrable to a modern reader, was accused of sentimentalising nature. It may be inescapable for an urban society to yearn for a (seemingly) more wholesome and natural lifestyle. It may be an idea, however, to live, breathe and try to understand at least a small part of the many areas of the natural world worth writing about before sitting down in front of a keyboard and pouring forth an assault of prose on the wonders of a wildflower in a concrete jungle. Too much is an image half seen, the wider picture not comprehended or even contemplated. A simple nature=good, man=bad narrative pervades and any human element appended with an adverse adjective, an elegiac phrasing.

I understand that not every writer can be Carson or Wilson, offering a reasoned, engaging and researched piece of work without becoming dry. Nature writing certainly lends itself to the aesthete, but purpose and clarity should not be eschewed in the name of verbosity dressed as art. A tough act to follow, but Aldo Leopold, a better writer and a better naturalist than Thoreau, shows the perfect balance of evoking natural imagery and sensations while educating and

The author: A bearded hipster wannabe?

The author: A bearded hipster wannabe?

drawing the reader in to his world. For a beautiful example of how to write up a citizen science project, read 65290 or Sky Dance. The prevalence of nature blogs risks making the most unique natural spectacles humdrum and ordinary through doggerel. Good nature writing like Leopold elevates the commonplace in nature into a spectacle all of its own through insight and compassion for his subject.

And yes, I do realise the irony of trashing nature writing on a nature writing blog. This is, to some extent, a pre-emptive hoisting by my own petard. I’m also an occasional hat wearer and beard have-r and I use the word ‘elegiac’ at least once in this post, so what the hell do I know?

*I’ve resisted the urge to link to some of the worst offenders, I’m not that mean

Wallabies! On the Isle of Man!

It’s another article in my series on invasive species, but this one is a little bit different. This one is a very personal tale. That’s right, it’s time I wrote an article about my time amongst the marsupials on the Isle of Man. Everyone wants to hear about that, surely?

Some time ago, in the distant past of my infancy as an ecologist (well, in 2008), I found myself losing a boot in bog land on the Isle of Man. As I sat with a damp foot and a furrowed brow, I became aware of a crashing through the scrub behind me. Could it finally be, that after 3 days of roaming around 200 hectares of marsh, willow carr, grassland, scrub and woodland at ungodly hours of the day that I was finally going to get my first glimpse of my target? I turned around just in time to see a rustling in the bog myrtle and what could have been a large tail disappearing into cover. Foiled once again!

One of the many oddities I cam across on Ballaugh Curragh. This was miles from anywhere, in the middle of thick woodland.

One of the many oddities I came across on Ballaugh Curragh. This was miles from anywhere, in the middle of thick woodland.

For those 3 days, the Wallabies of Ballaugh Curragh had been my white whale. I had washed up here in the Isle of Man as part of my dissertation. It seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t miss and one that suited me much more than some quadrat study on a windswept saltmarsh. It was all going to be so easy. How could I fail to find and record an accurate population count of the most inconspicuous of alien species? But I hadn’t reckoned on this. The thick, almost impenetrable bogs, the almost ethereal gift for concealment my marsupial marks had displayed to date. They were never the stealthiest of animals when moving through dense scrub, and a crashing sound in the distance was a dead giveaway that they were wise to your approach. But they could move around quite swiftly, padding around with little noise when moving through grassland or older woodland.

By the forth day, I was getting nervy and when I spoke to a regular visitor to the site about them, my fears were compounded. ‘How many have you seen?’ I asked. ‘2 or 3’ came the reply. ‘And how often do you visit here?’ I continued, nervously. ‘Oh, about once or twice a week for the past ten years.’ Oh dear. This was not looking promising. An Assessment of the Ballaugh Curragh Wallaby Population wasn’t going to be much of an assessment if I couldn’t find any of them. Still, I’d found plenty of scats, so the secondary purpose of the project, to analyse their diets, was still on target.

And then on the fifth day, my luck changed. Either that or the Wallabies became accustomed to my unique scent. I’d scouted out my 12km of line transects over the preceding weeks and now it was time to begin. I arrived at 4 am, cycling to the site in the gloaming murk, lumbered with too much kit and nearly falling off at least once. I walked the first transect through lush and long acid grassland and birch woodland. Nothing. My second, through willow carr. Nothing. My third…well you get the idea. It was late morning when I found a small glade and laid down to take an early lunch. I don’t really like early mornings (what sane person does?) and drifted off to sleep. When I woke, I had a strange sense of being watched, and there, at the edge of the glade was my first sighting. O frabjous day. I can’t quite describe the feeling of coming face to face with something quite so out-of-place. Maybe I hadn’t really believed in them until then. I probably looked quite perplexed. The Wallaby looked supremely nonplussed as it chewed leisurely, hoping off in a most laid-back fashion while I fiddled ineffectively with my camera.

Why do you keep following me and stealing my poo?

Why do you keep following me and stealing my poo?

After this, they started to appear with almost obedient frequency, to the point that a new sighting almost, almost became mundane. Walking 60 km of transects, I made 74 sightings over the next month and the final population estimate returned was around 90-100, much higher than anyone had previously estimated*. I’d been sunburned, rained on, fallen over in bogs, but it had all been worth it.

The second part of the study was not quite so glamorous, as I began the study of wallaby fecal matter. This involved transporting 20 scats back to England in a cool bag (I’m still not entirely sure that this was legal, as it came mid-foot and mouth scare. I don’t think they’d written anything specific into the legislation for Wallabies, though). I then diluted, strained (with a tea-strainer) and dyed my samples in my kitchen back in London, after having stored them in the freezer for a month. Not very scientific, in retrospect, and my wife was not best pleased when I told her. I still don’t think my other housemates at the time knew (sorry if you are reading this now). My samples sat on top of the fridge for months after (completely sterile though, you understand).

How the Wallabies came to be there is a confused story and is not the only example of such a population in the UK1, but through my research project I was able to determine that they were causing no real damage to the Ramsar site and (hurray) would not have to be controlled at their current level.

They’re perhaps not the first species to come to mind when you ask a conservationist to name an invasive, but they’re certainly the most charismatic I’ve come across. So what’s the future of the Ballaugh Curragh Wallaby population? Well, I hope that they will remain free to enjoy the fragrant bogs they call home and remain unmolested2 by scatologically obsessed ecologists for at least the foreseeable future. They’re certainly a unique addition to the UK’s flora and fauna and one that is sure to provide a sense of surprise and wonder to anyone fortunate enough to see them3, and in the end, isn’t that what conservation should be about4?

*

*Unfortunately my study was then followed successive harsh winters, and the population is probably smaller than this at the current time.

1An Assessment of the Ballaugh Curragh Wallaby Population available on request. If you have a particularly masochistic streak.

2I did not molest any Wallabies during my time on the Isle of Man.

3Wallaby spotting tours of the Ballaugh Curragh site available on request. Possibly.

4No, it isn’t.

Culling – The Dark Side of Conservation

The Badger - Serial mover of goalposts. Is the FA the real driving force behind the current cull?

The Badger – Serial mover of goalposts. Is the FA the real driving force behind the current cull?

Culling is in the news again and it is, as ever, proving a thorny issue. It often seems anathema and contrary to the whole hippy-feel of much of our work to even be contemplating the systematic removal of a portion of a species. But our ecosystem is now, perhaps irrevocably, out of kilter. Many of the natural checks to species populations are absent or severely reduced through human actions. From an ecological perspective, culling is often an unavoidably necessary step. But how can we reconcile this part of our work with the softer, public face of the environmental movement? Maybe it is time for conservations dark secret to be brought out into the light.

Culling comes in many forms. From the removal of invasive species having a deleterious effect on native species (e.g. mink), to the trimming of deer herds or the issue of potential disease vectors. In all instances, no matter how sound the science and theory behind it, emotion plays a strong role. The importance of sentiment and basic compassion for wildlife should not be underestimated; it is after all the reason that many of us have chosen to devote ourselves to this sector. Making the difficult decisions should not be an entirely cold, analytical process; we need to take into account the reaction of the public and even staff and volunteers within our own organisations. It does not need me to elucidate further the dangers, particularly for a wildlife charity for example, of losing the trust and good will of the public who financially support it, and the staff that drive it forward.

Let us work through the different types of culling we may encounter in conservation, starting with what I would hope would be the most straight forward and obvious:

Removal of invasive species is a huge part of conservation work, be they flora or fauna. Perhaps the species most referenced with regards to culling is the American Mink. A destructive mustelid, since its introduction/escape into the wild it has decimated the native Water Vole population, amongst other species, because it size allows it to access bank side holes that would otherwise be off limits to other species. Its removal, therefore, is of direct advantage to a native and charismatic species under severe threat. Spelling out these basic issues, few in the conservation sector would have any issue with culling. Some among the broader public however, may take issue at killing one species for the preservation of another on the grounds of longer-term residency.

An interesting side note here is the provenance of mink in the UK. There is a theory that that a large number established themselves after being released by activists from a mink farm, breeding them for their pelts. This is unsubstantiated, and there are a number of different ways one could read this situation from misplaced good intentions to fabrication of the story, to discredit. Either way, it further highlights the role that emotion can play and how they need to be managed and addressed accordingly and not dismissed as bleeding-heart sentimentality.

Deer culling however, is much more likely to send members of the public into paroxysms of rage. This I have experienced having worked in woodland where herd trimming was essential. Deer kill woodland. It takes a long while, but their presence in the absence of a natural predator will eventually lead to a lack of natural regeneration of woodland species due to overgrazing of saplings and seedlings. This obviously has a huge knock on effect to other species. Keeping herds at an acceptable level, mimicking the effects of a natural predator if you like, is therefore a vital part of woodland management, allowing different areas to develop thick, natural regeneration where elsewhere areas are opened out by grazing.

Deer Culling - I couldn't get the rights for a image from Bambi

Deer Culling – I couldn’t get the rights for an image from Bambi

And yes, I would love to see Lynx reintroduction as a measure to alleviate the need for such culling, but that is another argument. Deer though, are herbivores, are relatively inoffensive (whereas mink, for example, are seen as aggressors) and people generally like to see them on a woodland stroll. How then, to promote the idea and get the public on-board with the notion that you are going to be shooting a fair few of them in the head? Some organisations opt for the clandestine approach, keeping it a slightly dirty little secret, and you can understand why. But this shirks one of the main responsibilities of the environmental sector: to inform and educate. Through discussing, educating, and yes, even promoting the darker parts of our jobs we can pre-empt any potentially negative reactions. It’s a risky move, but keeping the activity hidden breeds distrust and suspicion.

On to yet more controversial culling activities: Badgers and foxes. They represent an extremely familiar face of wildlife in the UK – if we can be said to have any remaining charismatic megafauna, these are they. The recent badger cull was a complete farce, of that you hardly need me to tell you. But the reason it fell so entirely flat was not just that badgers are cute and fluffy, it was that the science was so flawed. As soon as this became apparent, the whole undertaking was a failure. Add to this that the move was taken to appease the farming lobby and you can understand just why it got everyone in the sectors back up so much. But, for example, imagine that the badger cull was scientifically backed up as being a necessary measure to protect a habitat or unique biodiversity feature, what then? This is not too far fetched, and indeed can stretch to that other target of the most vehemently and vitriolically divisive of culls, foxes. Either could theoretically reach a stage, like deer, where their population increase, unchecked by natural predators or competition, begins to cause real issues for conservation measures. Some might say that is already beginning to happen now. What then? Would we be prepared to meddle? Just how would we square that with both our own ethical stance and the public’s emotional attachment to these animals?

In such a situation it would be negligent in the extreme to ignore the issue. Many would say that the land should be allowed to adapt naturally, a rewilding ethic coming into play, and therefore these animals should be spared the rifle. But would this same feeling be extended to deer? Unlikely. How about to mink? Unthinkable. Why then should these two be spared? It is an interesting poser, but should this situation arise only clear and honest setting out of either side of the argument before the public will allow progress to be made in the right direction. Any other approach risks alienation of the one real weapon we have in the environmental sector: public support.

Red-Eared Terrapin

It’s time for another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film again, so I thought I’d get out ahead of the publicity juggernaut with an article about our very own Chelonian peril, the Red-Eared Terrapin, or Slider. They’re now a frequent sight on urban ponds in the UK and are often seen as something of a novelty, however they are actually currently listed as one of the 100 most invasive species in the world by the IUCN. They can live for 40 years, but there is scant information on their distribution and the severity of the issue on UK ponds, with some speculative reports suggesting a population of around 15,000 in London alone.

Terrapin riding a dead fox down the Regents Canal

A perfect illustration of the callous and cold-blooded nature of the Red-Eared Terrapin (and the unremitting grimness of London) as one rides a dead fox down the Regents canal. Apparently Megan Fox is in the new film, but for the life of me I struggled to make a sensible pun out of it

From the southern United States and Gulf of Mexico region, terrapins were a popular, cheap pet, and were often sold when around the size of a 50p piece. Care and feeding was relatively simple and their popularity as pets grew during the 80’s (damn ninja turtles!). Growth could be rapid and for many owners unexpected. Coupled with aggressive behaviour and the potential for transmission of salmonella, many families took the irresponsible option of letting them take their chances in municipal ponds and canals.

Fortunately, the presence of terrapins is largely restricted to ponds in urban or semi urban settings (as accessible dumping sites) where the environmental value and biodiversity may not be that high. This does not reduce the need to eradicate them, a process which should both be simple and cheap but which land owners seem reluctant to undertake. Perhaps this is because of their status as charismatic novelties with the visiting public?

Reaching the size of a large dinner plate, they are opportunistic and voracious omnivores and their presence in the ecosystems of small ponds can be devastating to invertebrate and small vertebrate populations and also reduce macrophyte cover, compounding the problem. There are also anecdotal reports of terrapins killing ducklings by dragging them underwater, but more serious danger to waterfowl perhaps lie in their tendency to use nests as basking areas, destroying or submerging them and potentially eating eggs. Exploiting an environmental niche in the UK, the Red-Eared Terrapin has no natural predator and due to its adaptable and varied diet, is able to grow largely unchecked. Other predators are out-competed while the loss of fish stocks may increase the homogenisation of flora already found in many over-polluted bodies of water. As ever, there has been the usual, responsible reaction to the issue of an invasive from certain media outlets (Terrapins that can bite the finger off a child’s finger are being dumped in the Lake district by owners who don’t realise how big they grow – a particular favourite of mine, mainly for the glorious sub-editing failure to trim down the title).

Solutions

Removal of terrapins from our waterways should be a relatively straightforward process. They do not currently breed in the wild in the UK as they require a warm ambient temperature for over 60 consecutive days, though one incident of egg laying and nest building has been recorded in the south of England, and hatching does occur in areas of southern Europe. There has also been a recent report of a juvenile in London last year, but its provenance was unknown. Improving information on distribution and impact should be a primary concern and would not be overly difficult; interest groups such as anglers for example would be a useful source of knowledge.

Buying terrapins is illegal in this country as is their dumping (or that of any alien species) and the lack of breeding suggests that the issue should be self-resolving, as with a lifespan of 40 years, the majority of those purchased around the 80’s boom should die out in the next decade or so. However, the scary prospect does exist that as long hot summers increase in regularity, the chances for breeding in the UK improves for the Red-Eared Terrapin. For this reason alone, removal should be attempted wherever the need exists.

Perversely, American Mink may be one of the only species present in the country that is able to predate on terrapins, though this may also be possible for otter.

A Personal Nemesis!

I have myself made the odd attempt at catching Red-Eared Terrapins (I emphasise the word odd), working to remove 5 terrapins from a small nature reserve in Kings Cross, London. Attempting a number of traps that verged on the Heath Robinson-esque, I eventually sourced some outside assistance, contacting the Hampstead Heath Conservation Rangers

Volunteers capture terrapin

Volunteers looking pleased with themselves after catching a terrapin (terrapin understandably camera shy)

team, who had reported great success in removing terrapins from their bathing pools with a tried and tested trap. The rather ramshackle looking trap consisted of a 5ft by 5ft square of thick piping, plastic sheeting of about 1ft forming the walls of the trap and on which the Terrapins would not be able to gain a purchase. The bottom was lined with chicken wire. It was necessary for the trap to sit in relatively deep water and the combination of a basking area as well as some bait would prove an irresistible charm and they would slide into the enclosed area and become trapped. At least that was how it was supposed to work.

However the much-vaunted trap failed and the terrapins showed absolutely no interest in it, despite prodigious baiting with sprats. After 2 months of failure we finally threw in the towel. No sooner had we done this than a volunteer strolling along the side of the pond simply bent down and scooped a less-than-vigilant terrapin up one morning. This was soon followed by a second, scooped up in a net while out fixing vegetation rafts in a canoe.

Catching the Terrapins was one thing, deciding what to do with them then was another matter entirely. Trawling lists of contacts and in depth browsing of the internet only resulted in a number of recipes for Terrapin soup. They could not be re-released, (terrapins are a Schedule 9 species) but equally there was nowhere on site to home them and no contacts who were willing to take them. Eventually the pair was euthanized by a vet, but the issue caused such consternation amongst the volunteers that the three remaining terrapins were left much as they had been before.

Taking on the hard choices regarding animal culling is a key part of responsible site management, and to ignore or fudge the issue by pandering to elements within volunteering or staff risks endangering the future stability of the ecosystem and this should not be underestimated despite how small or urbanised the reserve.