New Forest at risk from sky lanterns

chinese sky lanterns piece

Published Tuesday 30 September 2014

Organisations across the New Forest have joined National Parks England in calling for the release of Chinese sky lanterns to be banned due to the significant risk they pose to wildlife and habitats.

There is increasing concern about the impact of sky lanterns on the countryside, both in terms of the health and welfare risks for ponies and other livestock and the danger of fires being ignited by lanterns. A recent review of evidence1 carried out by Defra and the Welsh Government concluded that sky lanterns pose a significant fire risk.

The New Forest National Park Authority and its partners are encouraging residents and visitors to steer clear of sky lanterns, particularly as the free-roaming New Forest ponies and cattle can become entangled in a lantern’s frame.

Hampshire County Council has banned the launching of sky lanterns from its land, and National Parks England – which represents the 10 English National Parks - is lobbying for the intentional release of sky lanterns to be classified as littering and banned.

National Parks England says more action should be taken to raise public awareness of the hazards associated with the use of sky lanterns, and people should be encouraged to find more environmentally-friendly ways to celebrate special events.

New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: ‘We have been concerned for some time about sky lanterns; they are a potentially serious threat to the internationally important wildlife and habitats of the New Forest and the livestock which shape the landscape.

‘I would appeal to anyone marking a celebration in the New Forest to do so without launching lanterns.’

The frames of lanterns are particularly dangerous, as they can get chopped up with hay and eaten by people’s horses or fed to New Forest ponies in winter, which causes their stomachs to rupture and leads to an agonising death.

Graham Ferris, Chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, said: ‘We believe that sky lanterns represent a totally unacceptable risk to the New Forest and its livestock.

‘A fire started by these lanterns could prove devastating, and what’s left lying around after the lanterns have landed can entangle livestock or be eaten by them with fatal consequences. We urge people in and around the New forest to act responsibly and not release these lanterns.’

As well as posing a threat to the New Forest’s free roaming ponies and cattle, lanterns can harm people’s horses and farm animals.

Tony Hockley of the New Forest Equine Association said both wire and bamboo-framed lanterns can cause injury and death to animals. He said: ‘These lanterns are so dangerous in so many ways that no-one who cares for the countryside and the animals that graze it should even think about setting them off. Few other types of litter can have such devastating results.’

If you see a fire in the New Forest ring 999 immediately and ask for the Fire Service.

If you encounter ponies, cattle, donkeys or pigs in distress please ring the Forestry Commission on 02380 283141 who will notify the duty Agister.


Notes to photo editor:

Foal at Pilley Allotments in the New Forest, one of many animals that can be harmed by eating the frames of Chinese sky lanterns. Credit: Luke Parkinson

Notes to editor:

1Sky Lanterns and Helium Balloons: an assessment of impacts on livestock and the environment (Defra / Welsh Government 2013) available at

About National Parks England

National Parks England exists to support policy and practice by coordinating the views of the 10 English National Park Authorities (NPAs). It does this by:

  • Providing a collective voice for the views of the English NPAs
  • Raising the profile of the work of the authorities to policy makers, Parliamentarians and other decision makers
  • Facilitating discussion amongst NPAs on issues of common concern
  • Supporting the development and capacity of the NPAs to effect change
  • Working in partnership with other bodies where this adds value

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more

Media Contact:

Matt Stroud, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650

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