Prisoners work to save London’s sparrows
Monday 17 December 2007
Prisoners developing their carpentry skills on the inside could be the saviours of London’s beleaguered house sparrow population.
ZSL London Zoo has become a haven for wild house sparrows (Passer domesticus), while their numbers are rapidly declining across the rest of London and the UK. One colony of the tiny British birds has recently set up home in the Zoo’s new Gorilla Kingdom exhibit, where they live harmoniously with three western lowland gorillas.
When Zoo staff noticed the sparrows were becoming regular visitors to the Kingdom they knew they needed to act quickly to provide nest boxes by the time the birds start searching for their winter homes.
Conservationists working on the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Native Species Programme where delighted when the HM Prison Service offered to step in and provide boxes built specially for the sparrows by prisoners.
The inmates constructed 10 nest boxes for free as part of a Prison Service enterprise project, and ZSL London Zoo took delivery of the boxes this week.
Jonathan Baillie, head of Conservation Programmes at ZSL, said: “Sparrows used to be a common sight in London, earning their reputation as the ‘cockney sparra’. Unfortunately this is no longer the case and these delightful birds need help to prevent their British population declining further. The new boxes in Gorilla Kingdom will encourage the new colony to breed and remain here. We’re really grateful to HM Prison Service and the nest boxes are perfect.”
Gorillas and sparrows already share a history at ZSL London Zoo. Guy the gorilla, the Zoo’s most famous resident who arrived in 1947 and lived here for more than 30 years, was famous for his habit of picking up sparrows and inspecting them before gently setting them down again.