11 September 2008

Froglife has cross words for child safety leaflet

Froglife has expressed serious concern over a crossword puzzle given to a number of schools and youth groups in the UK as part of Child Safety Week.

The organisation says that one question on the offending document has potentially set back the urban wildlife conservation movement by encouraging people to remove ponds, to alleviate fears of young people drowning.

‘4 Across: It’s best to fill this in, if you have young children and one of these in your garden (4)’ the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) crossword clue says.

Froglife say that the children’s leaflet should have highlighted that alternatives to pond removal exist, such as fencing off ponds or adding mesh coverings, as is suggested elsewhere on the CAPT website.

“To see a recommendation that ponds be filled in, without any mention of methods to make ponds safe, lacks any sort of understanding of the value of ponds for people, wildlife and education and sets back the hard work of many wildlife organisations.” said Froglife’s Education Officer Sam Taylor, who commended the otherwise excellent work of CAPT.

In terms of education ponds are of enormous importance. Under supervision, children can see real life examples of many of the things they learn in the classroom: ecosystems, foodchains, biodiversity and identification. Plus potential pond-dippers develop a confidence in the wider world, and an appreciation and respect for local nature, Froglife say.

“In many urban areas ponds offer young people a chance to encounter local nature up-close, and for many people this may represent the only opportunity they have for this form of learning.” said Sam Taylor.

Ponds have important value for wildlife in urban areas – allowing populations of amphibians to thrive, as well as providing crucial places for dragonflies and other pond invertebrates. They also provide stepping stones for other species to come into urban areas – such as grass snakes, birds and even bats.

Urban ponds also help buffer the disappearance of natural ponds in the wild - the number of ponds in the UK countryside was estimated to have declined by over a third from the 1940s to the 1980s*.

“There are, of course, dangers associated with ponds, but it’s important to stress everywhere possible that safety measures exist that can eliminate this risk.” added Mrs Taylor.

Froglife recommend three steps to make your pond safe until children are older and more aware of the dangers surrounding water:

1. Do not allow unsupervised play near garden ponds.
2. Fence off a pond, with a strong 1.1metre high fence with lockable gate.
3. Invest in a metal grating to cover the pond – easily installable brand products exist for this purpose.

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