Rare hazel dormice reintroduced to second Warwickshire woodland as part of wider landscape project
Today, Thursday 14 June 2018, wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) in partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and others, are releasing 20 breeding pairs or trios of rare hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) into an undisclosed woodland location just south of Coventry, in Warwickshire.
This 2018 reintroduction follows two previous dormice reintroductions in the county which have been a success: last year’s reintroduction, which took place in June 2017 near Wappenbury, was the first phase of the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme – a project coordinated by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Today’s reintroduction is the second phase of this wider landscape project, which aims to one day connect the two separate dormouse populations, creating a dormouse stronghold in Warwickshire. The other reintroduction in Warwickshire mentioned took place in 2009 in a private woodland just south of Birmingham.
Despite being incredibly cute, these charismatic creatures are endangered. The State of Britain’s Dormice report, published by PTES in 2016, confirmed that hazel dormice have become extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, with populations thought to have fallen by a third since 2000 – a rate of decline equivalent to 55% over 25 years. Loss of woodland and hedgerow habitat, as well as changes to traditional countryside management practices, are all factors which have caused this decline.
Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer at PTES explains: “Our annual reintroduction programme has been running since 1993. Since then over 900 dormice have been released into woodlands in 12 English counties where they once existed, in an effort to rebuild lost populations. This year’s reintroduction is the second phase of a wider landscape project we started in Warwickshire last year, so we hope that by returning to the same county (albeit to a different woodland) that we can connect the two populations in the future, creating a larger, self-sustaining population which we hope will help bring this species back from the brink.”
Chris Redstall, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme Manager continues: “This year’s woodland has been chosen as it is well-managed with a mixture of mature and coppiced woodland, which is the perfect habitat for hazel dormice. This, combined with ongoing sympathetic woodland management and a drive to improve surrounding hedgerow links, should help ensure the successful establishment of this new population. All the dormice released today, as well as any future offspring, will be carefully monitored to see how they’re faring. We would like to thank National Lottery players and our scheme partners for their support in helping make the wider Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme project, and this reintroduction, possible.”
This year’s reintroduction would not be possible without weeks of hard work leading up to today’s dormouse day by partners PTES, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Paignton Zoo and the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Each are involved in the different stages of the dormouse reintroduction programme:
- All dormice being released today are captive bred by members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group
- Prior to release, the dormice undergo a nine-week quarantine period at ZSL London Zoo and Paignton Zoo in Devon, during which vets from both institutions conduct a full health examination to check they are in tip-top condition and reduce the risk of them passing on non-native diseases, so that they have the best chance of forming a healthy population in the wild
- Once all dormice have been given the green light, they are carefully transported to the reintroduction location, where staff from PTES, Natural England and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, along with numerous volunteers, will be on hand to ensure the smooth transition from travel nest-boxes to their new woodland accommodation
After the reintroduction day, the dormice spend the next 10 days in mesh cages, which are connected to trees and contain natural foliage, food and water to help the dormice become acclimatised to their new surroundings. After this, the mesh doors of the cages are opened, leaving the dormice free to explore their new home. Eventually, the mesh cages are removed.
Reintroductions play an important role in the long-term conservation of this endangered species and are part of the Species Recovery Programme supported by Natural England. This is the 27th dormouse reintroduction led by PTES; over the last 25 years, more than 938 dormice (the majority of which bred by the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group) have been released at 23 different sites.
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For further information, interview requests, or images please contact Adela Cragg or Jane Bevan at Firebird PR:
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Available for interview
- Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer, PTES
- Gina Rowe, Living Landscapes Manager, and Chris Redstall, Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme Manager, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
- Inez Januszczak, Pathology Technician, and Jenny Jaffe, Wildlife Veterinarian, ZSL
- Ghislaine Sayers, Head Vet, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
There will be live updates about the reintroduction throughout the day, follow People’s Trust for Endangered Species on Facebook or @PTES and #dormouseday on Twitter
Notes to Editors
About the reintroduction
- The dormice that will be released have been captive bred through the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Prior to release, the dormice undergo thorough checks with vets at ZSL London Zoo and Paignton Zoo in Devon to make sure they are healthy, have the best chance of survival and will not introduce novel diseases to the wild. The dormice are then released on-site in breeding pairs in their own secure wooden nest box fitted inside a mesh cage secured to woodland trees. This helps them adjust to their new home in the wild. Once the initial relocation has taken place, the dormice are checked and fed daily in these cages over a two-week period to help acclimatise them to their new environment. A small door in each cage is then opened so that the dormice are free to explore their new home whilst having the security of the mesh cage and food if needed. These are eventually removed once the animals have settled into the wood.
About the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP)
- The NDMP is co-funded by People’s Trust for Endangered Species and Natural England and has been running for over 20 years. It is one of only a handful of mammal programmes contributing long-term data on population trends. The NDMP relies completely on the enthusiastic commitment of volunteers who collect dormouse data annually at over 300 monitoring sites all over the country. Dormice population numbers and density in their remaining range are monitored by putting up nest boxes similar to bird boxes on hazel trees and checking the boxes for occupancy at regular intervals. The results are held in a database which is used to assess the status of the species over time.
- PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards and native woodlands.
- If you want to support PTES’ ongoing conservation work, you can donate £3 by texting ‘PTES18 £3’ to 70070.
- Visit www.ptes.org for more information or follow PTES on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ptes) and Twitter (@PTES).
About Natural England
- Natural England works with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species to provide an ongoing programme of funding, coordination and monitoring of the dormouse recovery project. Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. They conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. www.naturalengland.org.uk.
About Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
- Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered conservation and education charity supporting conservation work in the UK and overseas. The Zoo was founded in 1923 by Herbert Whitley; after he died in 1955, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) was set up in his name. Today the Trust also runs Living Coasts in Torquay, Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, Primley Park and Clennon Gorge reserves in Paignton, and Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve. See https://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/ for more information.
About Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
- Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is the lead partner on the Dunsmore Living Landscape scheme and the leading local environmental charity which works for people and wildlife in Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. The Trust looks after 65 reserves, we are a voluntary membership organisation supported by more than 23,000 members and 1000 volunteers. We were established in 1970. We promote a better natural environment for local wildlife and local people as part of our aim to create a living landscape in the West Midlands where wildlife and local people can live and thrive together. For more information see www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.
- The Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme aims to restore an ancient wooded landscape connected by hedgerows, grasslands, trees and ponds, full of historical sites, to one rich in wildlife and accessible to all. More information about this project can be found here: www.exploredunsmore.org.
- Founded in 1826, ZSL is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground-breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
- The Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) project within ZSL coordinates the dormouse quarantine.
- For more information visit www.zsl.org.