This week, wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) in partnership with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group, are releasing 11 hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) into an undisclosed woodland location near Retford, in Nottinghamshire.
Despite being incredibly cute, these charismatic creatures are also critically endangered. PTES’ State of Britain’s Dormice 2016 report confirmed that hazel dormice not only went extinct from 17 English counties since the end of the 19th century, but that recent records reveal populations have probably fallen by a third since 2000. Loss of woodland and hedgerow habitat, as well as changes to traditional countryside management practices, are all factors which have caused this decline.
This further release of animals will bolster the existing reintroduced populations of hazel dormice already in the area by increasing genetic diversity and therefore helping the long-term survival of this endangered species. The 2019 release follows three previous reintroductions which took place in 2013, 2014 and 2015. These three woodlands are all owned by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and are located within a 5-mile radius of each other.
Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer at PTES explains: “This week’s release is the next phase of a wider landscape project, as this site was where we released 40 dormice. Over the last five years, we’ve reintroduced over 100 hazel dormice into this part of the county, in three different woodlands. By releasing more dormice again this year, we hope to achieve our aim of connecting the three separate populations and increasing the gene pool, consequently creating a dormouse stronghold in the region.”
Ian continues: “Since the previous reintroductions, dormice have become well dispersed throughout all three woodlands, which is fantastic as it shows they have adapted and settled into their new surroundings. To ensure these populations continue to thrive, each woodland will require ongoing woodland management, which is something our colleagues at the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group have been doing successfully since 2013.”
This release and previous reintroductions would not be possible without weeks of hard work by partners PTES, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group, 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:
- All dormice being released this week 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 to 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 members of Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group, will be on hand to ensure the smooth transition from travel nest-boxes to their new woodland home
Tony Sainsbury, Senior Research Fellow, ZSL and lead Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) Project (NE and ZSL) explains: ”The health of all species being translocated needs careful management and monitoring both before and after the release. The effects of squirrelpox virus on red squirrel populations in England, and the chytrid fungus on amphibians worldwide, provide warnings of the dangers of unplanned translocations. At DRAHS we are pleased to have been monitoring the health of reintroduced dormice throughout England for nearly 20 years.”
After the reintroduction, the dormice spend the next 10 days in large release cages, which are checked daily and are connected to trees containing natural foliage, food and water to help the dormice become acclimatised to their new surroundings. After this, a small door in the cages are opened, leaving the dormice free to explore their new home. Eventually, the release cages are removed once the dormice have settled into the wood.
Lorna Griffiths, Chair of the Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group adds: “Not only have the dormice dispersed throughout their original release sites, but also populated nearby woodlands, increasing their stronghold in the wider landscape.”
Michael Walker, Reserve Management and Monitoring Officer at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, says: “The introductions in Nottinghamshire have been a great success and these extra animals will help to ensure that their future is secure as they venture out into the wider landscape.”
A second release is also taking place in Lincolnshire this week, where another 11 dormice will be released. This follows a previously successful reintroduction in 2002, so this addition will also strengthen the local dormice population in this area.
These 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 year’s two releases are the latest in the programme, which has run for over 25 years, releasing almost 1,000 hazel dormice (the majority of which were bred by the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group) back into 12 English counties where dormice once existed, in an effort to rebuild lost populations.
Dr Peter Brotherton, Director, Specialist Services and Programmes, Natural England concludes: “We have seen great success in reintroducing hazel dormice to Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire though our Species Recovery Programme, and today’s release will mean their numbers can grow. This project is helping to maintain woodlands and the links between habitats to allow our dormouse communities to breed and create a healthier population.”
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Available for interview
- Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer, PTES
- Michael Walker, Reserve Management and Monitoring Officer, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
- Lorna Griffiths, Chair, Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group
- Dr Peter Brotherton, Director, Specialist Services and Programmes, Natural England
- Ghislaine Sayers, Head Vet, Paignton Zoo
- Inez Januszczak, Pathology Technician, and Dr Tammy Shadbolt, Wildlife Veterinarian, DRAHS, ZSL
Notes to Editors
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.
- PTES’ current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
- PTES has Species Champions for three of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell and Secretary of State for Transport, for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, and for dormice The Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
- Visit www.ptes.org and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About the Common (Hazel) Dormouse Captive Breeders Group (CDCBG)
- Formed in the early 1990’s by a group of like-minded mammal conservationists. The first releases were carried out in 1993 under the auspices of the Natural England Species Recovery Programme for the Hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius. Neil Bemment has been Chairman with responsibility for coordinating the activities of the CDCBG since 2000, while the studbook is currently maintained by Suzanne Kynaston, with assistance from Hazel Ryan, at the Wildwood Trust, Kent.
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.
About Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group
- The Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group (NDG) is a voluntary organisation made up of volunteers from a range of backgrounds. The group was founded in 2013 to support the dormouse reintroduction to Treswell Wood that same year. The group then hosted the subsequent reintroductions to Eaton and Gamston Woods in 2015 and 2015;
- The group members undertake monthly monitoring of the nest-boxes at all three dormouse woodlands as part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP), and carry out woodland management tasks including coppicing, tree planting and hedge-laying, over the winter months to enhance the habitats within the woodlands;
- The group regularly liaise with the local landowners, and are, with landowner backing, undertaking a long-term programme of hedgerow planting to improve the landscape connectivity between the three dormouse woodlands;
- NDG also regularly hosts group visits to the woodlands, including university students, wildlife watch groups and natural history groups. Certain members also provide talks and deliver training to conservation groups on dormouse ecology and surveying techniques.
- For more information contact Nottsdormousegroup@gmail.com or follow on https://twitter.com/NottsDormice
About Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
- The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, a registered charity, manages Nature Reserves throughout the county of Nottinghamshire. It advises local authorities, community groups and landowners on nature conservation issues, and makes a major input into decision-making on planning matters and other issues.
- The Trust is part of a nationwide network of local Trusts which work to protect wildlife in town and country – The Wildlife Trusts. The Wildlife Trusts now boast over 800,000 members.
- For more information please see our website: www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org
About Paignton Zoo
- Paignton Zoo 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, a charitable trust was set up in his name. Today known as Wild Planet Trust, this charity also runs Living Coasts in Torquay, Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, Primley Park and Clennon Gorge reserves in Paignton, and owns Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve.
- See https://www.paigntonzoo.org.uk/ for more information.
- 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.
- For more information visit www.zsl.org.
- The Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) project is a partnership between ZSL and Natural England, with support from PTES, which has carried out disease risk analysis and health surveillance for over 25 species translocations in the UK including the hazel dormouse.
- For more information visit http://www.zsl.org/science/research/drahs