Volunteer urges people to sign up to help protect wildlife

A prolific volunteer is calling for people with a love for nature to sign up for the RSPCA’s Wildlife Friends initiative.

Charlotte Lister (pictured) was among around 2,000 people who pledged to volunteer their time to become Wildlife Friends for the animal charity last year. They completed a range of tasks aimed at helping and protecting wildlife in their own gardens, green spaces and local communities, including building dead hedges and bug hotels and placing bird feeders.

Wildlife Friends spearheaded the RSPCA’s involvement in the Big Help Out, a nationwide volunteering initiative in May 2023 to mark the King’s Coronation. The successful scheme has been relaunched again this year and there are plenty of volunteer places on offer now, and as part of the Big Help Out, which returns in June (7-9).

Volunteers will also be joining the charity’s one million strong movement to change the lives of animals for the better as it celebrates its 200th birthday this year.

The RSPCA believes by taking part people can make a huge difference for the nation’s wildlife and make a positive impact on their local communities by creating safe, clean and healthy habitats, and a better environment for animals to thrive. Charlotte did just that in 2023 when she proved to be one of the charity’s busiest volunteers.

Charlotte, who lives in Retford, Nottinghamshire, completed a lengthy list of tasks after signing up as a Wildlife Friend in March last year. She made bird houses and cleared routes through hedgerows so that passages were free for hedgehogs to travel along. She also put out hedgehog food and made her own reindeer food, while she also spent time campaigning online for the RSPCA.

Charlotte says taking part in Wildlife Friends gave her mental and physical health a boost and it was ideally suited as she was able to work her volunteering around her busy life.

“I have done a lot of volunteering before this, but I found Wildlife Friends ideal as you can fit the tasks around your work and family life. You record them with the RSPCA app so you have goals to achieve and you really do feel you are making a difference to wildlife in your local community,” said the 36-year-old, who appeared on the BBC’s One Show to help launch this year’s Big Help Out.

“I enjoyed spending the time outdoors and it gave me a real lift. I love wildlife and my volunteering got me out on longer walks. I watched wild deer and it was good for my wellbeing and health. There is no pressure to do tasks if you can’t, but what you do makes you feel that you are making a difference. I got some of my friends involved too by posting details of the tasks I was doing on social media.

“I started my tasks this year with a litter pick in a park near my home as part of the Great British Spring Clean and I will also be encouraging my friends to take part again.”

For 2024, the RSPCA is laying on 24 self-service tasks for volunteers to complete as part of its 200th birthday celebrations with different tasks for different seasons. There will be more tasks to choose from later in the year. So whether you have five minutes or five hours spare each week or whether you live in a flat, narrowboat or house with a garden there will be tasks that you can accomplish.

There are seven tasks for the Spring season, ranging from spring cleaning bird cleaners, to taking part in No Mow May, to building bug hotels and planting wildlife-friendly plants to support the local ecosystem.

Volunteers earn points as they complete their tasks and those collecting 50 or more points will be presented with a seasonal certificate. Those completing all the tasks across the year will win a prize.

Wildlife Friends are making a difference for the nation’s wildlife by helping to create habitats and environments where wildlife can thrive and be safe from harm, and promote ways people can help the animals in their neighbourhood.

Everyone can help play their part in creating a better world for every animal. Whether you have five minutes or five hours spare each week, whether you live in a flat, narrowboat or house with a garden – there will be tasks suitable for you.

By getting involved in volunteering to support wildlife, people can also free up time for RSPCA officers to tackle cruelty and neglect cases. The charity received nearly one million calls from members of the public last year.

RSPCA head of volunteering Brian Reeves added: “By becoming an RSPCA Wildlife Friend, animal lovers can join with their community to make a safe space for the animals who share our world. Our Wildlife Friends volunteering scheme is great for anyone who can spare a few minutes, or a couple of hours.

“These things will all make a huge difference for wild animals and their welfare. We had a huge response last year when around 2,000 people took part, but we need people to pitch in again as we aim to create a one million-strong movement for animal welfare, during our 200th year.”

Will you join the RSPCA as a Wildlife Friend? By signing up you will be joining other Wildlife Friends who will be making a positive impact on their local communities.