Prospect, the union representing scientists and other specialists at the top London visitor attraction, set up the petition in response to plans for a multi-million pound museum facelift which will see more than 50% of the unique living exhibit lost or uprooted.
The award-winning garden was set up by scientists 20 years ago to recreate the habitats of lowland Britain on a compact one acre site and is home to more than 3,000 species of plants and animals, some of which are endangered.
A metres-wide path, intended to direct the flow of visitors into the museum, will cut through an area currently occupied by the garden’s iconic central pond and surrounding wetland and grassland habitat.
“I helped to plant this garden many years ago and have enjoyed watching it develop,” said one respondent, who asked: “What can you possibly gain by destroying it? Are you only interested in dead, stuffed and pickled objects or in real natural history?”
One of many museum scientists to sign the petition observed that the garden had “matured into a magical place where visitors and staff alike can enjoy quiet and refreshing moments whilst enjoying an unexpected array of wildlife right in the centre of the city”. She added “it borders on insanity” to spend millions on the revamp.
“I have been a volunteer in the wildlife garden for the past 18 years even though I live two and a half hours away,” said another. “The garden is a living exhibit not just part of the grounds as the promoters of this development seem to be implying.”
Another NHM scientist said the museum’s plans went against its key principles for diversity and sustainability, adding: “A very sad state of affairs that will no doubt be damaging to the NHM's reputation and incredibly disappointing to its millions of fans.”
Centrica chief executive Iain Conn was one of those to sign the petition. He said: “I believe the NHM wildlife garden is a fundamental part of exhibiting the UK's wildlife and is passionately loved and followed by many supporters. It represents what the NHM stands for.”
Many petitioners highlighted the educational role of the garden. “The wildlife garden is a unique educational space - was there last year with eight year old and it stood out for her as one of the highlights of her trip to London,” was one such comment. A teacher added simply: “I'm signing because I took my school class there on a really great trip, and I think it would be so sad to lose this resource.”
The petition can be found at bit.ly/saveNHMwildlife
For further information contact:
020 7902 6648 (w)
07736 490800 (m)
020 7902 6681 (w)
07770 304480 (m)