Organisations across the New Forest National Park are appealing to people to spare a thought for New Forest animals as they enjoy the hot weather.
The National Park Authority and its partners are calling on holidaymakers and residents to steer clear of Chinese lanterns as they are a serious fire risk and the free-roaming New Forest ponies and cattle can become injured after becoming entangled by the metal frames.
The frames can also get chopped up with hay and eaten by people’s horses or fed to New Forest ponies in winter, which causes their stomachs to rupture and leads to an agonising death.
The flying candles, which can be taken great distances, can also set fire to thatched cottages and hay as well as causing harm to wildlife, people’s horses, and farm animals.
New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: ‘We have been concerned for some time about Chinese lanterns and a recent huge fire caused by one in the West Midlands has just confirmed our fears. With dry heath and the impacts on ponies we wanted to renew our call for people to be careful.’
Graham Ferris, Chairman of the Commoners Defence Association, said: ‘We are totally opposed to the release of Chinese Lanterns at any time, but releasing them now that we have seen the consequences and recognising the risks to the New Forest, hay crops and barns and inquisitive young foals, would be criminally irresponsible.’
Jim Green, Animal Rescue Manager for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘The concerns of all agencies in the New Forest are valid and lanterns pose a real threat to lives and livestock. No one would set out to intentionally cause suffering to animals or destruction to property so to highlight the risks now might discourage people not to use them.’
Sue Westwood, clerk to the Verderers, said the lanterns are potentially very dangerous to Forest stock for several reasons. She said: ‘Some lanterns are made of bamboo rather than wire and bamboo splinters could cause injury to an inquisitive calf or foal that might try to chew it. A lantern flying low could very easily scare animals into bolting – possibly across a road – resulting in a road traffic accident.’
Tony Hockley of the New Forest Equine Association said horse owners were also concerned about parts of the lanterns ending up in hay. He said: ‘At the moment haymaking is well underway, and the risks of fire and of bits of sky lanterns’ bamboo or wire framework ending up in our hay are very serious concerns. The consequences for animals eating them can be fatal.’
Nick Tucker, Head of Recreation and Public Affairs, at the Forestry Commission, said the Forestry Commission does not permit the release of flying lanterns on the Crown lands of the New Forest.
‘We do not permit any form of fire except in designated or agreed locations,’ he said. ‘Lanterns bring with them the additional problems of litter and potential threats to wildlife and domestic animals. We would discourage the use of flying lanterns in all areas surrounding the Crown lands and appeal to adjacent landowners to help in preventing their use.’
Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.