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The Campaign

Since the charity was founded in 2018, the Greenwich Wildlife Network has received almost daily reports of animals being shot at with catapults in local parks, waterways and green spaces in the boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley. 

The culprits are often groups of young males aged 12-18, and the victims are most frequently water birds such as swans and geese, as these are large, slow-moving targets. However, no animals are safe from these attacks and we have also seen foxes, squirrels and pigeons wounded and killed.


The perpetrators of this cruelty use catapults to fire objects such as ball bearings, rocks and even nuts and bolts at animals. The damage caused is, of course, tremendous.  We have seen animals lose eyes, be killed outright from head trauma, or suffer severely fractured bones. In some cases, we cannot catch the injured animal, and our unpaid volunteer team may spend days or even weeks attempting to rescue them in order to tend to their wounds, employing specialist equipment such as kayaks and net guns. 

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We may never be able to capture the affected animal, and they may linger on for days, suffering from painful injuries, before finally dying.


In 2023, a group of youths at Southmere Lake in Thamesmead shot a mallard with a catapult in broad daylight, hitting her in the head area in front of multiple witnesses. She died shortly after, leaving her six ducklings orphaned. In spite of many hours of attempting to round up these ducklings on a kayak by GWN volunteers, capturing them proved impossible. They were left to die without a mother.


A shot Canada Goose is dumped in a bin at Danson Park.

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In 2021, a group of youths shot a Canada Goose in the neck with a catapult at Danson Park in Bexley, causing such damage that the animal became comatose and collapsed. Witnesses then observed the youths dragging the bird out of the water and throwing him in a bin whilst he was still alive.


To inflict such pain on wildlife in this way, purely for entertainment, is of course, against the law. All wild birds are protected under the Countryside & Wildlife Act, and the Animal Welfare Act prohibits against causing any suffering to an animal that might be deemed unnecessary. 


However, this seems to be little deterrent for the culprits. Both our volunteers and the members of the public who witness these incidents - which almost always happen in broad daylight in busy urban areas - have made multiple police reports. Yet the same youths still return day after day to local parks and green spaces to continue their ‘sport’, seeming to be able to perpetuate public acts of animal cruelty with impunity. Reporting these crimes is having little to no impact on their frequency.

This problem is not limited to London. Other rescue organisations based across the UK, such as the Swan Sanctuary and South Essex Wildlife Hospital, have the same experiences in tending to victims of catapult attacks. It is a nation-wide problem.


We have even found Instagram or Facebook accounts that are effectively galleries proudly displaying the criminal’s successful ‘kills’.


Mere feet away from mothers pushing strollers and families enjoying picnics in our urban parks and green spaces, animals are being tortured and killed, and the culprits are getting away with it. It is incredibly frustrating, and something needs to change.


But what would that change look like?


It might mean stricter laws around who can purchase catapults, or carry them, particularly in public.


It might mean tougher consequences for youth offenders when they commit acts of violence against animals, or their parents if they fail to take action to prevent further offences.


It might mean more patrols of urban parks and green spaces, or even CCTV.


It might mean greater resources being allocated to wildlife crime units, which tend to be under-funded and considered a low priority area of policing, so that they can properly investigate and prosecute these criminals.


Whatever the change, it is long, long overdue. Parks and green spaces should be a refuge from urban life, a safe place where communities can share and appreciate nature. They should not be playgrounds for budding sadists. 


Ronnie, a goose beloved to a community in Orpington, is severely injured after being shot with a catapult.

Please sign and share the petition to strengthen laws around catapults, and contact your local councillor or MP to urge them to take action on this issue. 


If you witness a catapult attack on wildlife or an any other act of animal cruelty, report it to the police ASAP and contact your local wildlife rescue organisation to get help for the animal that has been harmed.

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