Following the Duathlon in Richmond Park on Sunday 18th September, the Friends issued a Press Release.
Our Press Release caught the attention of ITV News who featured the gel pack story on the 6 o'clock news on Tues 27th October. You can view the news clip here
For the second time in less than 2 months, a major sporting event in Richmond Park has seen large amounts of discarded litter in this National Nature Reserve famous for its herd of grazing wild red and fallow deer.
After the London Duathlon on Sunday 18th September, protection and conservation charity, Friendsof Richmond Park, conducted a review of the Park on the Monday immediately after contracted litterpickers had swept the course route.
Along the grass verges of a 600 metre section (from Pembroke Lodge to Richmond Gate), Friends' volunteers found 161 empty gel packs and gel pack tear-off opening strips (see picture below) used by competing cyclists as well as other litter. The Friends had carefully cleaned this section prior to the event.
The full cycling course around Richmond Park (the main perimeter road) is nearly 11 km so although we cannot verify this, an extrapolation of the litter found in the 600 m survey would suggest there were many more litter items left around the Park following the London Duathlon events.
Event organisers had installed clear signs around the course stating:
Don't harm the deer with litter! Take it away with you
But despite this and the provision of numerous bins and clear instructions on disposal of bottles and other race-related litter, it seems many competitors ignored all of this and simply dropped litter in this environmentally sensitive area.
The Ride London event, which took place in Richmond Park on 31st July, saw similar results with 182 gel packs and opening strips found in the same section. After both events, cleaning contractors used by the organisers to clear up failed to find these items.
Danger to deer
The gel packs, particularly the tear-off opening strips, are dangerous for deer as they are small enough to get hidden or trampled into the grass and undergrowth and mistakenly eaten by deer. Litter can gradually clog deer digestive systems, leading to them being unable to eat properly and so starve. Examination of deer that have died unexpectedly often shows the contents of their stomach full of litter. Every year several of Richmond Park's herd of 630 wild red and fallow deer die due to litter ingestion.
Friends of Richmond Park Chairman Ron Crompton said:
“Richmond Park is a National Nature Reserve and London's largest Site of Special Scientific Interest
(SSSI). It is sad to see this amount of litter discarded in such an environmentally sensitive area by some participants despite the provisions taken by the organisers.
See the full Press Release in the PDF document below.