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Seal pups at Ramsey bring in wildlife tourists

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seal-pupTHE ATLANTIC grey seal (Halichoerus Grypus) is one of Wales’ iconic species, and is attracting wildlife tourists to Pembrokeshire with the start of the seal pupping season at RSPB’s Ramsey Island reserve. 

South west Wales, which includes RSPB Ramsey Island just off the coast of St David’s in Pembrokeshire, has an estimated grey seal breeding population of 5,000 individuals, which is around 4% of the UKs population. The grey seal is one of the least common seals in the world. The male adult can grow over 2 metres and weigh up to 230kg (or around 36 stone) while the females are smaller at 1.8 metres and 150kg. They can dive up to 70 metres in search of food and can remain submerged for up to 13 minutes.

Every year between 500-700 pups are born on the reserve, with several hundred more on Skomer and around the Pembrokeshire coast path. The hope is that there will be a good number this year. Lisa Morgan RSPB warden on Ramsey said: “We had 656 born here last year and although the season looks slightly later than last year the signs are positive that we will have a similar number again in 2014″ The seals are born weighting a hefty 14 kg, just over 2 stone. But birth is the easy bit. Survival rate to adulthood is around 2 in 3.

One of the main threats to the pups’ survival are storms. Lisa said: “I always hope that the weather won’t be too stormy during the pupping season as some of the pups can get washed out to sea and then washed up on other beaches which makes it hard for the mothers to find them again”. Fortunately for hose that don’t get lost progress to independence is rapid. Lisa explains: “The milk of the females is very rich, around 60% fat which means that the pups put on an incredible 2 kg (the equivalent to two bags of sugar) of weight a day.

At 18 days old the pup has amazingly tripled its birth weight. At this stage the mothers head back out to sea leaving the pups to find their own food. They are fully independent at a very young 4 weeks old and start eating solid food. It’s a very short upbringing.” Although visitor numbers are limited on Ramsey, the grey seal is one of a number of iconic species that could help Wales hit the Welsh Assembly Government target of seeing an increase of 10% in tourism in Wales by 2020. Wildlife tourism has become an increasingly important way of attracting visitors with an increase of 10% across the world each year.

Visitor numbers to Natural Resources Wales’ Bwlch Nant yr Arian site in mid Wales before the start of red kite feeding were 30,000. But after five years of feeding, as well as opening a visitor centre, play areas and bike trails visitor numbers increased to 130,000 a year. There are multiple benefits to developing wildlife tourism. A report entitled ‘Wildlife Economy Wales’ commissioned by the then Environment Agency Wales (now NRW) with the support of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Countryside Council for Wales published in 2007, pointed out that wildlife tourism could have considerable knock on effects. Not least that increased awareness as a result of greater wildlife tourism has the potential to bring not only an increase in the number of conservation volunteers but also and most importantly an increase in actual conservation activities. So in this case an economic driver can create conservation as well as an economic benefit.

The report also rightly points out that ‘it is essential that any development of the sector will need to be managed in a way that safeguards and invests in the wildlife resource upon which it is based’. Indeed, without strict controls and codes of conduct, albeit on a voluntary basis, these activities can be detrimental to the very wildlife we are trying to promote. If wildlife tourism continues to grow as it has done over the last decade or so, and Wales can take advantage of the growing market, then we may see more habitat created, and in an ideal world more red squirrels scampering in the woodland canopies of Anglesey, ospreys swooping for fish in Machynlleth, black grouse burbling on the Berwyn and not least young seal pups being born on the spectacular rugged shoreline of Pembrokeshire. Indeed Lisa Morgan has no doubt as to the best place to seals. She said: “Ramsey for me is one of the best places in the UK to see young seal pups as the public are able to get close to them looking down on the beaches from the cliff tops without disturbing them. It’s a great sight for the public but also a real privilege for me to live with these great animals every day.” To find out more about seals and RSPB Ramsey visit the website http:// www.rspb.org.uk/ramseyisland And for the latest seal season news you can follow the island wardens on Twitter @RSPBRamsey

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Fishguard and Goodwick Mural project turns to Crowdfunder to raise money

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PLANS to put up a few bright and decorative murals around the twin towns of Fishguard & Goodwick have turned to Crowdfunder to raise the money needed for their vision.

Andrew Harries, found of the Fishguard Future Projects, wants to place 12 murals around Fishguard and Goodwick “to help brighten up the town and showcase its culture and history”.

Andrew said: “Having been born and raised in Fishguard, I have seen the town’s highs and lows.

“Fishguard and Goodwick has a lot of potential with the tourism trade growing every year and the popular events such as the Music Festivals, The New Years Eve Street Party, The Carnival, The Soapbox Derby and many more helping attract even more visitors.”

The murals, which were initially turned down for funding when a grant application was refused, will focus on the two towns “interesting but lesser known history” that Andrew feels needs to be highlighted.

Andrew told The Herald: “Each design will be 8 x 6ft and mounted professionally on buildings around the area. Having spoken to a few business owners around the town, this project has received a lot of positive feedback.”

“The murals will unfortunately need to be fully funded via Crowdfunder, after a grant application was turned down.

“I have explored the option of having them traditionally painted on, but this would be more cost effective and would need to be maintained every 5 – 8 years. With this in mind, the designs will be created digitally and then professionally mounted on aluminium composite.”

If you want to help, you can find the link to Andrew’s Crowdfunder here.

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Community

Drive for new recruits as Army Cadets re-open

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DYFED AND GLAMORGAN ARMY CADET FORCE are now able to accept new joiners aged 12 (and in Year 8 at School) to 17 years old.

Joining the Army Cadets will give access to a wide range of exciting activities, from adventurous training (AT) such as kayaking, mountain biking and abseiling and Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to military-themed activities including shooting, fieldcraft and skill at arms, as well as training in first aid, young adults get the chance to discover lots of new experiences and make new friends.  

There is no obligation to join the Forces at all, but they can give some guidance if you are interested.  

There are no subscription charges, uniform is issued free on a loan basis; the only thing you need to supply yourselves is Boots.  

The Cadet Force are also looking for adult volunteers, both uniformed and non-uniformed to assist as well.

They have Detachments located in Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Narberth, Tenby, Milford Haven, Neyland, Pembroke Dock, Tenby, St Clears, Llanelli, Trimsarren and Burry Port.

Most Detachments parade twice a week in the evenings 1900 – 2100hrs on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday (Depending on Location) and try to get away for a weekend every month as well as organising summer camps. 

Further Information is available at :- www.armycadets.com or call them on 01656 657593 (Option 1) to find out where your local detachment is and what nights they Parade.

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Food Waste Heroes needed in Pembrokeshire

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TESCO’S Pembroke Dock Superstore has joined forces with food sharing app and social enterprise OLIO which is encouraging people across Pembrokeshire to become Food Waste Heroes.

The OLIO app allows anyone who signs up to tackle the issue of food waste at a local level.

OLIO Food Waste Heroes collect surplus food that might otherwise go to waste from supermarkets and other food businesses and share it with others locally for free via a contact-free pick-up.

Food Waste Heroes will be collecting surplus food from Tesco local stores taking part in the scheme, including the Tesco Pembroke Dock Superstore, and take it home ready to upload it to the app and share it with their community.

To reward them for taking part Food Waste Heroes are allowed to keep 10% of anything they collect to enjoy at home.

Saasha Celestial-One, co-founder of OLIO, said: “People become a Food Waste Hero for many different reasons but they each share a commitment to reducing food waste at scale. It is extremely rewarding because distributing large quantities of surplus food via the app means you get to see exactly what food you are preventing from going to waste.

“In the process of sharing our FWHs also get to meet a lot of new people in their neighbourhood, people from all walks of life. Finally, FWHs are able to keep up to 10% of their haul for themselves, so they can enjoy some of the delicious rescued food too!”

OLIO is registered with the Food Standards Agency, which ensures that all food collected is safe for human consumption.

Paul Johns, Store Manager at Tesco Pembroke Dock encouraged people to get involved.

“At Tesco we are committed to tackling food waste and we already donate our store’s surplus food to local charities and community groups through our Community Food Connection scheme with FareShare,” he said.

“But on some days local charities and community groups are unable to collect from us, and that is why we are supporting OLIO in the hunt for Food Waste Heroes across Pembrokeshire so that even more of our surplus food is eaten rather than wasted.”

To become a Food Waste Hero or find out more, visit https://olioex.com/get-involved/volunteer/

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