AN APPEAL has been made to stop vandals 'destroying' habitats for rare species across Dorset.

Over the past year Dorset Wildlife Trust, which runs 42 nature reserves, said staff members are dealing with a spate of vandalism, fires and fly-tipping on the nature reserves.

In response, councillor and mayor of Weymouth Graham Winter has condemned the behaviour calling it a 'travesty'.

He said: "These sites are important and should be appreciated not decimated.

"I condemn vandalism. These sites are important ecologically and have been here for tens of thousands of years.

"These crimes are destroying these sites, which are home to rare species - some of which can only be found in Dorset."

The nature reserve areas of major concern include the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre, Portland, and the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre in Kimmeridge. Both sites have been affected by fly-tipping and fires have also been started there.

In November, in the most significant act of fly-tipping on Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserves during the year, 60 bags of rubbish were dumped and then set alight at Powerstock Common nature reserve.

The fire hazard was dealt with and the surrounding area made safe by a fire crew from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Rescue Service.

A spokeswoman from the Trust, said: "Any form of vandalism or damage to our nature reserves is completely unacceptable.

"It puts both people and wildlife at risk and taking our nature reserve staff away from the important conservation work they need to do.

"It's our responsibility to care for these wild places.

"We're urging the public to treat them with the respect they deserve, while exploring them and gaining the mental and physical benefits associated with being outside with nature.”

Cllr Winter said: "The damage to these areas is a travesty.

"If anyone sees any criminal activity to these sites, please contact the Dorset Police immediately."

Group manager Richard Coleman, of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Any fire in the countryside has the potential to be devastating, particularly on nature reserves and areas rich with wildlife. "A small fire can spread. If you see a fire in the open, please call 999 immediately."

A police spokeswoman said: "With regards to reporting incidents to police, anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at, via email or by calling 101. If life is in danger or a crime is in progress, call 999."

For matters regarding fly-tipping, contact Dorset Council on 01305 221040.