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University of Cambridge removes bird netting and ‘unreservedly apologises’




The University of Cambridge is removing the bird netting at its West Cambridge site.

Bird netting installed in JJ Thomson Avenue outside the University of Cambridge’s Whittle Laboratory
Bird netting installed in JJ Thomson Avenue outside the University of Cambridge’s Whittle Laboratory

It came in for fierce criticism - including from conservationist and TV presenter Chris Packham - after nets were put up over 20 trees beside the Whittle Laboratory, which is being expanded.

A university spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent: ““The University of Cambridge has decided to begin immediately removing the netting over trees on its estate and accepts that the decision to use nets to discourage nesting birds was wrong. We unreservedly apologise for any upset we have caused.

“The netting was put in place in advance of building work during the nesting season which requires the trees be replaced or moved to another spot on our estate.

“We will be consulting with experts on our local trees and wildlife before any further activities related to these trees is carried out.

“The university aims to increase the environment for wildlife with planting schemes that ensure any new buildings provide a net biodiversity gain.”

There was concern birds may become trapped in the netting, which also reduces roosting and foraging space for them.

Springwatch presenter Mr Packham had called the decision to put up nets “absolutely outrageous” while the RSPB tweeted: “We are against the use of netting on trees, hedges and bushes to prevent birds nesting. Everyone needs nature in their lives – which means giving birds and other wildlife more, not less, room to live. We are facing a nature and #ClimateCrisis, and this practice must stop.”

On Thursday night, Extinction Rebellion Cambridge had removed some of the netting, and vowed on Friday to return every time it was put back up.

XR Cambridge activists remove some of the bird netting from outside the Whittle Laboratory. Picture: XR Cambridge (30340415)
XR Cambridge activists remove some of the bird netting from outside the Whittle Laboratory. Picture: XR Cambridge (30340415)

Prior to the decision to remove the netting, Sophie Draper, a member of Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, said: “It is monstrous that the university – at its science research hub of all places – is resorting to such barbaric and dangerous measures to stop birds from nesting so that they can cut down these beautiful trees.

“Given that the university says it is at the cutting edge of the fight against the climate and environmental emergency, this is utter hypocrisy. We won’t allow this to happen and we will keep coming back to remove the netting until the university acknowledges that what it is doing is wrong and stops using the covers.”

And Extinction Rebellion Cambridge activist and conservationist Ben Ward had said: “It is as if the university has its head in the sand. Bird species have declined by almost half over the last 50 years with woodland species falling by almost a third. East Anglia is the most nature-depleted region in the UK, it has the most agriculturally developed land and it is also the most urbanised. And yet the university – which claims to be fighting climate change and the biodiversity crisis – is actively taking steps to speed up species loss.”

The activitists welcomed the university’s U-turn on Friday, and pressed for clarity on whether it would be removing the foam inserted into holes in the trees too.

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Chris Packham condemns bird netting installed on trees for University of Cambridge as ‘absolutely outrageous’



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