At a time when people prepare to gather indoors for Winter, a new poll published today shows that an overwhelming majority of children aged 8 – 15 years old feel happy being outdoors, seeing wildlife around them and enjoy visiting wild places.

The poll also reveals that two of the four animals – badgers and hedgehogs – depicted in a Christmas advert are rarely seen by children in the wild.

The poll of over a thousand children by YouGov was commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts following the release of the John Lewis Christmas advert #BusterTheBoxer. The Wildlife Trusts are John Lewis’s Christmas campaign charity partner; the advert celebrates the joy of encountering wildlife in a garden using a cast of wild creatures – a fox, badger, squirrel and hedgehog.

The online poll* questioned 1,200 children aged 8 – 15 years old at the end of November 2016. It reveals:

  • 89% children agreed that being outdoors makes them happy
  • 81% like seeing wildlife in their garden or local area like birds or trees
  • 80% enjoy visiting wild places like rivers, lakes or woodlands
  • 70% enjoy playing outside e.g. climbing trees and building dens

 

The poll also asked children when they last saw the animals depicted in the advert in the wild. Focusing on the highest percentages, it reveals that:

  • Badger – 67% had never seen one in the wild
  • Hedgehog – 20% saw one more than a year ago; 25% had never seen one in the wild
  • Fox – 23% had never seen one in the wild
  • Squirrel – 45% saw one in the last week

 

Dominic Higgins, The Wildlife Trusts’ Nature & Wellbeing manager, says:

“At a time when it’s increasingly hard for children to spend time in wild places – whether because of parental worries, time pressures or simply absence of wild places near to where people live – this new poll sends a clear message: children are happy outdoors and benefit enormously from contact with nature. It also shows that we must do all we can to ensure there are wild havens close to where people live – whether it’s by making our own gardens wilder or taking action to protect our local community green spaces.”

 

Reflections on the species in the poll:

Badger: whilst it’s sad that 67% children have never seen this animal in the wild this is probably because it’s a nocturnal creature of the countryside. The Wildlife Trusts offer children the chance to go on badger walks and visit badger hides to see them in the wild, although it does mean staying up late.

Hedgehog:  This species is one of 56% of UK species that have declined over the last 50 years (hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30% in 10 years – there are now thought to be fewer than one million left in the UK.)*  It’s terribly sad that children aren’t seeing these and other wild creatures any more – The Wildlife Trusts are working hard to stop wild species and the habitats they need from disappearing.  Help hedgehogs in your garden by cutting a 5 inch squared hole at the bottom of your garden fence and make your garden a hedgehog haven by leaving log and leaf piles, wild areas for nesting sites and avoid using slug pellets – more ideas here!

Fox:  The fox is thriving everywhere, town and country. If children are getting outdoors, particularly in the evenings, there’s every likelihood of seeing foxes frequently.

Squirrel:  If children are getting outdoors, even if it’s simply to walk to school, they should be seeing a squirrel every day because grey squirrels are a common species (less so, red squirrels.) So we need to allow children to spend more time outside to reach a 100% figure/within the last week.

 

Dominic Higgins continues: “These findings are complex and illustrate the parallel problems of lack of access to natural places and wildlife decline. It’s harder and harder for children to spend time enjoying the wild places which make them happy. Plus, our natural environment is under huge pressure and wild creatures and plants are under threat.  We must do all we can to ensure our natural heritage is protected for future generations so that it’s still there for these children and their children to enjoy. As Sir David Attenborough said recently, ‘It’s our responsibility to create a planet that’s not just a home for us, but for all life on Planet Earth.’”

The Wildlife Trusts are offering a variety of ways that children can enjoy the outdoors and have a wild time this Christmas:

  • Be inspired by our Wild Winter guide and get outdoors!
  • Find out how to help UK wildlife
  • Wildlife isn’t just for Christmas, find out how you can support your local wildlife all year round by becoming a member
  • Have a wonderful wild encounter!
  • Learn more about that adventurous cast of characters!