RSPCA Cymru answered almost 300 calls in 2017 about animals harmed by rubbish, according to shocking new figures.
In total, the charity recieved 278 calls from Wales over the year about animals impacted by litter and discarded objects – incidences the RSPCA say are “entirely avoidable”.
Litter-related incidents across 2017 included three gulls who had to be put to sleep after being found trapped in fishing litter, at Hendre Lake in Cardiff.
RSPCA Cymru worked with Cardiff City Council, and South Wales Fire & Rescue, to help the birds – but, unfortunately, their injuries were too severe and they had to be put to sleep.
A gannet, too, sadly lost his life after becoming caught in fishing litter on Towyn Beach in Rhyl. An RSPCA inspector spoke at the time of the poor bird being “completely constrained by fishing litter” – and the “massive dangers to Wales’ wildlife by leaving discarded fishing litter out.”
More recently, earlier this year, a duck had to be put to sleep after being found with a plastic ring stuck around his head and beak – emphasising again that litter calls are set to continue to be a major issue for the charity in 2018.
Across England and Wales, in 2017, the RSPCA answers a call every two hours concerning a litter-related incident. In total, 5,081 calls calls were received during the previous calendar year.
The RSPCA has highlighted how most cases of litter impacting animals can be prevented if rubbish is disposed of properly and responsibly, ideally by recycling wherever possible.
RSPCA Cymru’s new figures are revealed as Keep Wales Tidy’s ‘Spring Clean Cymru’ gets underway; an annual event designed to bring people across the country together to clear up the litter in our towns, villages, countryside and beaches.
Adam Grogan, RSPCA Head of Wildlife, said: “It’s shocking how many litter-related incidents we see, particularly as these kinds of animal injuries and deaths are entirely avoidable.
“It is good that there’s a global spotlight on how we use and dispose of plastic and other litter so that people understand how their rubbish is affecting animals and the environment.
“Every month our officers, wildlife centres and hospitals deal with hundreds of cases where pets or wildlife have become caught up in – and even died – from carelessly discarded items.
“Only last week, the RSPCA was called out to a duck, which sadly had to be put to sleep after being found with severe injuries from a ring of plastic – probably from an oil can – stuck round her neck and beak.
“An animal’s life could be saved if members of the public picked up and safely recycled or binned any litter they saw.”
Lesley Jones, Chief Executive for Keep Wales Tidy said: “Litter remains a real and persistent problem for many communities; but it doesn’t have to be this way – all litter is avoidable.”
“It’s important to recognise that we all have a part to play in looking after our environment. That’s why we want to inspire the people of Wales to get outdoors for Spring Clean Cymru, be proud and help care for where they live. Together we can make a positive and lasting difference.”
RSPCA has also made efforts to clean-up litter hot-spots. Officers in North Wales recently teamed-up with the North Wales Wildlife Trust to clear litter from the coastline at Cable Bay – aiming to reduce the multitude of dangers posed to animals by discarded rubbish.
Animals looking for food can get trapped in tin cans and the sharp edges can cause injury. The RSPCA encourages people to clean and empty food containers, then pinching them shut or cutting them in half, before recycling them.
Elastic bands also pose a big risk to small animals and birds as they can wrap around their bodies or beaks and cause choking and other injuries. Members of the public are urged to reuse them where possible or cut them open before throwing them away.
Plastic bags can suffocate animals or, if they eat them, can cause them to choke or can block their digestive system. RSPCA Cymru urges people to tie bags in knots before recycling; while plastic can pack-rings can cause deep wounds to animals tangled in them, and can act as a choking hazard – so it’s advised to cut the loops before discarding.
The RSPCA also deals regularly with terrible injuries and death to mammals and birds from used angling gear. Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter – but careless actions can endanger the life of an animal. Injuries caused by discarded fishing hooks stop animals eating and can lead to infection, while old fishing line may cause strangulation or deep wounds where the line has cut into their body.