Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking on a visit to the RSPB's Rainham Marshes nature reserve at Purfleet on the eastern edge of London, has warned that the outcome of the EU Referendum would have significant implications for the future of our wildlife.
During his visit he got to see breeding lapwing and asked about the declining opportunities to hear cuckoos; both red-listed species of conservation concern as their populations are dwindling alarmingly. There were also sightings of amber-listed redshank, but the PM wasn't lucky enough to see the resident kingfishers or any water voles. All of these species are protected by European legislation and the whole site is a designated area of European relevance for nature.
RSPB Chief Executive Mike Clarke said: "It is great to see nature and the environment now featuring in the national debate on Europe. The RSPB recognises that weighing up the pros and cons of EU membership will involve, for most people, consideration of multiple issues and therefore we will not be telling anyone how to vote in the referendum. However, when considering the implications solely for wildlife and the environment, we have concluded that the safer option for nature is for the UK to remain a part of the European Union."
RSPB Rainham Marshes site manager, Andrew Gouldstone says: "The Prime Minister visited for about an hour so didn't have time to explore the whole site. I welcomed him to the reserve and gave a potted history and we lent him some binoculars so he could see more of our wildlife."
The visit gave the Prime Minister an opportunity to hear more about research from the RSPB and WWF, which concludes that nature is safer in the EU. David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF was joined by celebrity ambassador and impressionist Alistair McGowan to meet Mr Cameron, who also spoke with RSPB reserve staff, Louise Moss, Nicole Khan and Howard Vaughan.
Rainham Marshes is a freshwater marshland on the banks of the Thames. It's home to nesting lapwing, kingfishers, threatened water voles, dragonflies and rare grasses. Management of the site has seen wildlife populations flourish. The reserve also provides local residents with free access to its natural gems and additional activities ranging from bouldering, cycle hire, running, yoga, orienteering and volunteering. RSPB members also enjoy free access. Non-members have to pay an entry fee.
1. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
2. RSPB Rainham Marshes Environment and Education Centre, café and nature reserve is open seven days a week. For more information, please call 01708 899 840, visit www.rspb.org.uk/rainham or search for #RSPBRainham on Twitter. Visit our Active in Nature webpages for more information on our cycling, bouldering, yoga and running activities delivered in partnership with Sport England. Rainham Marshes were previously closed off to the public for 100 years when used as a military firing range. The site was acquired by the RSPB in 2000. Active in NAture is a partnership project delivered with Sport England.
3. The development of RSPB Rainham Marshes nature reserve would not be possible without the generous support of RSPB members, supporters and the following organisations: Veolia ES UK (plc), Veolia North Thames Trust, Biffa Award, City Bridge Trust, Homes and Communities Agency's Parklands Funding administered by Essex County Council, the EU's Interreg IVA Two Seas Cross-Border Cooperation Programme, the Rose Foundation, Defra's Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, Essex County Council, East of England Development Agency, Energy Savings Trust, Environment Agency, Fulham Heating, Heritage Lottery Fund, HSBC, Landfill Communities Fund of Waste Recycling Group Ltd (WRG) administered by the Environmental Body WREN, London Borough of Havering, London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, Natural England and the Environmental Stewardship Scheme, Rail Link Countryside Initiative, SITA Trust, South Essex Green Grid/Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership, Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, Union Railways and Thurrock Council.