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Endangered crayfish project is a success in Cornwall

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 18, 2013

White-clawed crayfish (c) Kate O'Neil Buglife

White-clawed crayfish (c) Kate O'Neil Buglife

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A CONSERVATION project aimed at protecting endangered white-clawed crayfish has been celebrating success after moving 4,000 of the creatures to safe havens.

The South West Crayfish Project was launched in 2008 and aims to protect the UK’s only native crayfish which was under threat of extinction in the south west due to the spread of the non-native American signal crayfish.

Under the project the creatures have been moved to safe haven Ark sites – including one in Cornwall.

The project is led by charity Buglife and also involves Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Environment Agency.

As well as moving the crayfish to protected sites the project has also

- surveyed our remaining wild crayfish populations and assessed the threats to them

- bred over 1,300 White-clawed crayfish at an innovative captive breeding programme at Bristol Zoo

- taught over 1,600 school children about the White-clawed crayfish and the wildlife in their local rivers.

- monitored the spread of North American Signal crayfish on many of our rivers.

However, despite the success of the project the crayfish continues to be under threat and, as a result, a new five-year strategy has been drawn up so that the work can continue.

Andrew Whitehouse, south west manager for Buglife, said: “The South West Crayfish Project has ensured that the region’s White-clawed crayfish have a brighter future, and is a great example of how a large number of organisations can work together to save some of our most threatened species. We look forward to the next phase of the project and to checking on our crayfish next year to see how they are getting on in their new Ark site homes.”

Lydia Robbins, species officer at Avon Wildlife Trust said: “We hope that by moving animals to Ark sites we have prevented highly threatened populations from going extinct due to the spread of the non-native American Signal crayfish. We must remain vigilant to continued threats and keep up surveillance of all populations.”

Mary-Rose Lane, biodiversity specialist for the Environment Agency, said: “What we have achieved is a great start, and we now need to continue working together to protect our native crayfish populations, and understand and tackle the damage Signal crayfish can cause the native wildlife of our rivers and streams.”

The South West Crayfish Project has been supported by funding from BBC Wildlife Fund, Biffa Award, Bristol Water, Defra’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, Environment Agency, Heritage Lottery Fund, Natural England, and the Pennon Environmental Trust.

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