RSPCA HQ is on the move again.

The UK RSPCA headquarters is on the move again. The Society has been like a hermit crab in the past by discarding its shell every few decades when it got too big for it. But this time it is different. They are downsizing.

The UK RSPCA HQ is on the move again. The Society has been like a hermit crab in the past by discarding its shell every few decades when it got too big for it. But this time it is different. They are downsizing.

Their first headquarters which opened in 1869 was a magnificent five storey colonnade Victorian building at 105 Jermyn Street in the centre of London just metres from Piccadilly Circus & Trafalgar Square. I remember the building well when I worked for the RSPCA in London. It was a maze of offices, corridors and staircases with a creaky old lift and a musty atmosphere, but it was a friendly and cosy place.  

The old headquarters survived two world wars before moving to the countryside

The Society escapes to the countryside.

Having served as its base for 103 years the Society decided in 1973 to escape to the countryside and set up home in another grand old building in The Causeway, Horsham West Sussex, much to the regret of the staff and public at the time. This was especially so in regard to their well-known and invaluable night emergency service which had come to the rescue of thousands of trapped and injured animals throughout Greater London and given emergency treatment to the public’s pets for forty years. The building was sadly demolished after the sale.

There was also a backlash by certain sections of the public over the perceived cost and waste of money of their move. But in fairness the original one had passed its sell by date as a workable office.

The Horsham Headquarter building.

On the move again to a £16m building.

Fast forward two decades and the Society was on the move again. This time to a lavish 72,000 square foot purpose-built building in Southwater, not far from Horsham. Costing £16 million pounds it again attracted adverse publicity for the Society over the perceived wastage of money that some thought better spent on helping animals. Personally, when I first visited it seemed a little over the top with its huge open plan space and indoor gardens and waterfall. It was more like an airport terminal or TV studio.

The £16m purpose built HQ at Southwater with indoor gardens and waterfall.

And now two decades later the Society is on the move again. This time it is slightly different in that they are apparently downsizing. They are moving to smaller cheaper offices nearby. The Society admits they have not been using their present facilities to the full for a while and because of the Covid hiatus the staff want to follow the trend of working from home.

It does beg the question why such a costly big palace of a building was required in the first place, but hindsight is an intangible thing. Will this be the final move? Time will tell. One good thing to come out it will be the release of funds for more ‘activity’ to help more animals as they expect to raise millions from the sale. So, there should be no outcry this time.

Returning to its roots.

Part of the relocation and reorganisation is its partial return to its roots in London. Offices are being leased from another charity in November 2021 to provide a “Hub” which will act as a drop-in for staff to work and have discussions probably over many cups of coffee. This should be a truly touching case of history repeating itself as the RSPCA was founded in 1824 in a London Coffee House in St. Martin’s Lane with its founders dropping in to discuss its future.

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Book When cats Got Stuck Up Trees
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Escobar’s Hippos: the ultimate alien invasive species.

Is it time to allow a little disorder in nature?

You cannot get a more obvious and intrusive alien invasive species running wild in a foreign land than hippos. In the normal course of events such a situation could not happen but in the case of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar’s and his hippos in Colombia, it did, and it is now causing scientists consternation and disagreement.

Pablo Escobar managed to import legally and illegally a whole private zoo at his Hacienda Napoles from all parts of the world in the 1980’s and these included four illegally imported hippos. How its possible to smuggle such large animals into a country is another matter, but there were also giraffes, elephants, kangaroos and many other species.

“one of the greatest challenges of invasive species in the world”.

When Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993 many animals were left to fend for themselves including the hippos who took up residence in a local river and in the space of thirty years have increased their numbers to a staggering 80-100. Some university study groups and scientists have wildly estimated that there could be as many as 1,500 by 2035 if the Colombian government do not act now.

The hippos themselves seem well suited to their new found environment and have pulled off a wonderful breeding achievement perhaps proving that you do not necessarily need human intervention to breed animals. But many scientists and conservationists hate invasive species and prefer everything to remain as nature intended all in its right order and place. This is because in some circumstances they eradicate indigenous animals and plants and ruin ecosystems and biodiversity and usually the knee jerk reaction is always to kill the offenders.

Hippos in Colombia
It is amazing how animals can breed and look after themselves without our help.

Protected by the Government.

There have been attempts to neuter them but with so many this is now proving impractical. Unusually in this kind of scenario the hippos are presently protected by the Colombian government. This is mainly due to the fact that it is difficult and expensive to relocate them and more importantly the locals love them and do not want them killed. They are also boosting the local tourist economy, and no one so far has been seriously injured or killed so at the moment they are free to roam.

Now they are established leave them be.

One has to wonder why there wasn’t earlier intervention to remove them before their numbers got out of control and why wildlife rescue, university study groups and scientists didn’t step in sooner. Now that they are established it seems only fair to leave them be and the colony could prove useful in the future with the way things are in Africa . There are many studies in progress to monitor them so there could be many lessons to be learned from leaving other animals in similar situations to survive without our intervention.

Invasive species are a worldwide problem mainly caused as always by the hand of humans abandoning exotic pets or historically introducing them to benefit human occupation. In Australia and New Zealand it is feral cats and dogs, in Europe it is animals like the coypu. The USA has problems with animals like crocodiles, turtles and snakes and in the UK it is grey squirrels, mink and ruddy ducks.

We blame invasive species for all sorts of things which is a tad rich when you consider the major invasive species at work on the planet has always been homo sapiens, who wherever they have decided to take up residence have irreparably destroyed the local biodiversity and continue to do so. Perhaps it is time for us to allow a bit of disorder in nature if it helps animals.

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