We Need To Raise £4,000 to Help Protect Our Badgers!
Due to the impact of COVID-19 and a greatly increased need for fundraising to cover our conservation work, we still need to raise £4,000 to fully cover the costs of this important work.
The Wildlife Trusts across the UK have been working on the issue of bovine TB and its links to badgers for many years, as different Governments have put forward proposals for culling badgers as a strategy for controlling bovine TB.
We recognise the seriousness of the situation for farmers but the emphasis of all our efforts should be to find a long-term solution. We therefore support badger vaccination, alongside a comprehensive package of cattle measures: better biosecurity, stricter movement controls, improved TB testing and development of a cattle vaccine and were relieved that the Welsh Government moved to support vaccination rather than culling in Wales.
We decided to invest in a badger vaccination project at our Castle Woods nature reserve, Llandeilo in 2014. We felt it was important to be part of the solution, and to play a role in demonstrating that badger vaccination is financially and logistically viable on individual holdings.
Castle Woods is an ancient, semi-natural woodland. It is a SSSI and National Nature Reserve, and it has been a WTSWW nature reserve since 1979. It is well known for its badger population and many local people watch badgers here. The adjacent parkland of Dinefwr, largely in National Trust (NT) ownership, also has a strong badger population.
Both the park and tenanted farmland surrounding Castle Woods is grazed; some areas are sheep grazed but a large number of cattle are also kept on this land, both on the flood plain (by tenant farmers of the NT) and in the park itself, in the form of the NT’s rare breed White Park Cattle. TB breakdowns have occurred in local herds.
We were fortunate to work in partnership with Andrew Crace-Calvert of EcoCon Ltd. to deliver our badger vaccination. We secured SSSI consent for the work from Natural Resources Wales before work began. All other licences and permissions were secured by EcoCon. We were also very fortunate to have dedicated volunteers to help with our initial surveys.
After a detailed survey of the whole site, the vaccination programme began with a site visit to check current sett activity, followed by a period of pre-baiting and four nights of trapping and vaccinating each year.
In 2014, 34 unique individuals were vaccinated over the four nights, including 29 cubs. A significant number of re-traps occurred on the second night of each session. This is a good sign that we successfully vaccinated a large proportion of the resident badger population.
After a break in the programme for two years caused by a world-wide shortage of the vaccine, we got under way again and in 2017caught and vaccinated 27 unique individuals over the four nights, including 23 cubs.
In 2018 we vaccinated 16 unique animals including 8 cubs. The total number of animals vaccinated was lower than in previous years, probably a result of the very long, hard winter followed by the hot, dry summer having caused naturally high mortality.
In 2019 we vaccinated 14 unique animals including 11 cubs which showed a slight recovery of numbers.
In 2020 we vaccinated 18 badgers, including 10 cubs. The population seemed in generally good health, with all but one pair of late cubs a reasonably good size and weight for this time of year.
Our wider surveys show that the local badger population is stable. We hope that our work will have a positive impact on the health status of the badgers and hopefully will continue to do so with the National Trust now also playing a role on the adjacent land.
We recorded a video of the work itself which is available on our WTSWW YouTube channel.
We have worked out that the area of surrounding land influenced by our vaccination programme covers 204 hectares of which just under 180 hectares is grazing land. By using the average figure for dairy stocking density of 2 cows per hectare in lowland England and Wales, we estimate that, a total of 358 individual animals could have been protected by this vaccination programme. This makes the cost of the programme £19 per head of cattle protected.
Whilst this is still more expensive than routine vaccination programmes for other diseases that are deployed by most farm businesses, it is not significantly so. We believe that badger vaccination is a worthwhile investment until a cattle vaccination is widely available.
We are grateful to the Welsh Government for part-funding our vaccination work. However, due to the impact of COVID-19 and a greatly increased need for fundraising to cover our conservation work, we still need to raise £4,000 to fully cover the costs of this important work. PLEASE DONATE TODAY and spread the word!
It is really easy to donate, either post a cheque (with a note to say it is for the ‘Badger Vaccination Appeal’) to WTSWW, The Nature Centre, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend CF32 0EH. Alternatively, click on the donate button.