Charity Awards 2024

Animals and the Environment 2024 winners: Naturewatch Foundation

Why they won

  • Outcomes: The training has reached more than 4,500 police staff members at 93% of police forces in just a few months
  • Value for money: Cost per trainee is just £1.34
  • Sustainability: The training course will continue to be accessed by new police recruits, meaning the return on investment will continue to grow

Naturewatch Foundation (NWF) aims to end animal cruelty and advance animal welfare standards through campaigning and raising awareness. It knew there were issues when people reported barbaric wildlife crime, such as badger baiting, to the police staff who controlled response allocation. A call was often met with the inaccurate response of: “this is an RSPCA issue, not us”, or crime reports were regularly emailed on to wildlife crime teams without checks on availability or ability to attend in a timely manner.

Naturewatch FoundationThis resulted in anger from the public, and a feeling that police were unwilling to deal with wildlife crime. However, police officers on the ground were equally as frustrated, as they wanted to attend jobs quickly. A solution was required to improve the ever-deteriorating response rate and public perceptions of wildlife policing.

NWF needed to deliver a method that would have a genuine impact without wasting valuable working time, and it needed to factor in operational risk assessments as some of the crimes are committed by violent and organised criminals.

It created an animated training package called FCR (Force Control Room) Wildlife Crime, lasting 19 minutes, covering seven crimes including hare coursing, bird of prey crime, and illegal hunting with hounds. NWF knew the latter would be a contentious issue, but with the full backing of policing, decided it was a vital one to tackle to regain public confidence.

Since launching in August 2023, the training has reached over 4,500 police staff members covering 93% of police forces across England and Wales. NWF calculates it has cost only £1.34 per person, and says there has been invaluable return on investment (ROI) in terms of geographical reach, members of the public positively impacted, and, ultimately, the numbers of animals benefited. The project has little to no ongoing costs, and therefore ROI will only increase over time.

Charity Awards judge Chris Sherwood, chief executive of RSPCA, said the work was hugely important, because it has historically been very difficult to secure prosecutions on wildlife crime. He explained that rather than there being just one act of parliament covering treatment of wild animals, as there is for domestic ones, there is a plethora of complex and inconsistent legislation which makes it almost impossible to secure convictions.

CC Reg no. 1039679

Highly Commended

People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society

The Hedgehog Street campaign, run for 13 years by People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, raises awareness of hedgehog decline in the UK. It engages the public in helping hedgehogs in gardens and green spaces, which have become too tidy, paved over for parking, or enclosed within impenetrable barriers. Hedgehog highways are small holes in walls and fences, allowing hedgehogs to pass through. Over 126,000 people have now signed up to be hedgehog champions, and a study has revealed they have created 1.69 highways each on average.

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The Tree Council

Young Tree Champions (YTC) is a programme that supports schools across the UK to embark on impactful nature-based projects that connect pupils and teachers with trees and nature. YTC has delivered far beyond its original aims, engaging 267,000 young people across the UK at 769 schools since 2020. Over 32,000 trees have been planted and cared for, and 93% of students that have taken part in YTC now feel more connected to nature, meaning they are more likely to help tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.

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