The Times - UK (2020-10-14)

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the times | Wednesday October 14 2020 2GM 5


By bringing the natural world into our

homes for more than half a century, Sir

David Attenborough has done much to

further the cause of global issues.

His documentaries and others like

them could also be solving problems on

a more personal level, however.

Researchers believe that watching

television nature programmes can

improve our mental health by lifting

the spirits, reducing negative emotions

and helping to alleviate the boredom of

being isolated indoors.

Wearing a headset to experience

nature in virtual reality (VR) could

have even greater benefits, academics

from the University of Exeter said.

Their study had 96 participants who

were subjected to a four-minute video

in which a man working at an office

supply company describes in a mono-

Brian May, the Queen guitarist, has

accused Sainsbury’s of sacrificing hedge-

hogs to increase profits by applying to

cut down an area of woodland to meet

growing demand for home deliveries.

The retailer wants to remove 67 trees

in a designated green space next to its

superstore in Guildford, Surrey. It says

it needs to expand the site to triple its

capacity for online orders of groceries,

which have soared since the start of


Its planning application admits the

development would be “contrary to

Brian May says hedgehogs will pay price for Sainsbury’s profits

Ben Webster Environment Editor planning policy due to the loss of desig-
nated open space”, but Sainsbury’s
claims it is necessary to “meet the
increasing demands and expectations
for online delivery”.
Save Me, the wildlife campaign group
founded by May, said the site was home
to threatened hedgehogs as well as bats
and many bird and insect species.
The UK hedgehog population has
fallen from 1.5 million in 1995 to 500,
in 2018, according to the Mammal
Society, which placed hedgehogs on a
new red list of British species at risk of
extinction in July.
May said Sainsbury’s had made

“huge profits” during the pandemic and
if the development was approved “local
wildlife will pay a terrible price”.
“Surely an organisation this large
and prosperous can re-examine their
plans, and find a more suitable place to
build,” he said. “What seems like a small
space to Sainsbury’s is actually a five-
star hotel and superstore for wildlife,
providing nesting space and food for a
wildlife population squeezed into ever
decreasing habitats.
“The data we have gathered shows
that hedgehogs love this area and stand
a chance of regeneration if their habitat
is protected. The new development

proposed by Sainsbury’s threatens the
hedgehogs’ very existence in this part
of Surrey.
“The loss of even the smallest amount
of wild space brings about a huge decline
in their sustainability due to loss of vital
foraging and hibernation locations.”
May said the land the supermarket
chain wanted to develop had previously
been set aside as “mitigation” for the
original development.
Andy Clapham, chairman of the local
Burpham Community Association,
said: “It is one of the few areas locally
where hedgehogs are frequently seen.”
He added that the woodland helped

shield nearby housing from the store
and its car park.
Sainsbury’s said that it would replace
the 69 trees with 300 plants and would
also install stacked timber for wildlife to
hibernate and bird-nesting and bat-
roosting boxes.
“Our proposal has been informed by
a comprehensive ecological appraisal
and arboricultural reports,” it said.
“In these challenging times, an ex-
panded home delivery service would
benefit locals and enable us to serve
more customers to their homes and via
click & collect. It will also create up to
100 new local jobs.”


he tigress’s pose
is one of sheer
And perhaps no
because the Russian
who took nearly a year
to capture the image has

won this year’s Wildlife
Photographer of the
Year competition
(Valentine Low writes).
Sergey Gorshkov beat
49,000 entries to claim
the top prize with his
image of a Siberian, or

Amur, tigress hugging
an ancient Manchurian
fir in the Russian far
Judges said the
picture offered hope that
the species was making
a comeback after being
hunted almost to
Liina Heikkinen was
Young Wildlife
Photographer of the
Year with a picture she

took on holiday in
Helsinki aged 13 of a fox
cub trying to eat a
barnacle goose in a
rock crevice while
keeping its hungry
siblings at bay.
The winners were
announced last night by
the Duchess of
Cambridge in an online
ceremony streamed
from the Natural
History Museum in

London, where an
exhibition of the images
will go on display.
Rosamund Kidman
Cox, chairwoman of the
judges, said of the
overall winning image,
The Embrace: “It’s a
scene like no other. A
unique glimpse of an
intimate moment deep
in a magical forest.
“Shafts of low winter
sun highlight the

ancient fir and the coat
of the huge tigress as she
grips the trunk in
ecstasy and inhales the
scent of tiger on resin.
“It’s also a story told
in glorious colour and
texture of the comeback
of the Amur tiger, a
symbol of the Russian
Gorshkov scoured the
forest for signs of tigers,
searching trees for

scent, hair, urine or
scratch marks. He set up
the hidden camera near
the fir in January last
year, but waited 11
months for his picture.
The duchess said:
“The skill and creativity
of this year’s images
provide a moving and
fascinating insight into
the beauty and
vulnerability of life on
our planet.”

Patience has its reward

in wildlife spectacular

Images of a clownfish
in Indonesia and a
young proboscis
monkey in Borneo
were among the
contenders in the
Wildlife Photographer
of the Year contest.
The overall award
went to Sergey
Gorshkov for his shot
of an Amur tigress,
taken by a hidden
camera that was in
place for 11 months

Nature shows boost our mood, study finds

Kat Lay Health Correspondent
tone voice a conversation with a client,
the determinants of stationery prices
and eating lunch at his desk.
The idea was to prompt a level
of boredom akin to that felt
by someone stuck in-
doors, for example in a
care home or hospital.
The participants
were then shown a
dynamic underwater
scene with colourful
fish, corals and a
turtle, supplied by the
BBC Natural History
Unit using footage
filmed for Blue Planet II.
Some were shown it on a
television, others using a VR
headset with 360-degree video, and
others in a VR headset using interactive
graphics. Participants in all viewing
methods reported minimised negative

feelings such as sadness, and signifi-
cantly reduced levels of boredom.
Only the interactive VR group, how-
ever, reported increased posi-
tive feelings such as happi-
ness, and an increase in
how connected they
felt to nature. While
the study set out to
determine whether
access to nature
footage might help
those in hospitals or
care homes, Nicky
Yeo, lead researcher,
said the findings could
have important implica-
tions for populations facing
extended periods at home.
She said: “Our results show that
simply watching nature on TV can help
to lift people’s mood and combat bore-
dom. With people around the world

facing limited access to outdoor envi-
ronments because of Covid-19 quaran-
tines, this study suggests that nature
programmes might offer an accessible
way for populations to benefit from a
‘dose’ of digital nature.”
Mathew White, co-author of the
study in the Journal of Environmental
Psychology, added: “We’re particularly
excited by the additional benefits im-
mersive experiences of nature might
provide. Virtual reality could help us to
boost the wellbeing of people who can’t
readily access the natural world, such as
those in hospital or in long-term care.
But it might also help to encourage a
deeper connection to nature in healthy
populations, a mechanism which can
foster more pro-environmental behav-
iours and prompt people to protect and
preserve nature in the real world.”
The researchers said there was
growing evidence that contact with the

natural world could boost health and
mental wellbeing, with a number of
theories as to why that might be.
One posits that humans evolved in
close proximity with natural environ-
ments “and as such, have an innate
need to affiliate with nature”, the re-
searchers said. Another proposes that
coming across “the kind of unthreaten-
ing natural scenery that supported our
ancestors’ survival” can trigger the par-
asympathetic nervous system, which
acts to restore the body to a calm state.
A third theory suggests that over-
stimulating modern lifestyles “can
deplete attentional resources, leading
to cognitive fatigue and negative mood”
whereas elements of nature such as
dappled light “engage involuntary at-
tention in an effortless fashion, allowing
for recovery of mental processes and
associated improvement in mood”.
Leading article, page 29


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