Press release: First ever reintroduction of rare hazel dormice into the National Forest

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38 dormice are released into a woodland at NT Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, in a bid to boost the population of this native species that has experienced a 51% decline since 2000

This week, 38 rare hazel dormice are being reintroduced into the heart of the National Forest by wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), the National Trust and partners, in an attempt to save this endangered species from further extinction in the UK.

The golden-coated, bright-eyed dormice will be released into a large, secluded woodland on the Calke Abbey estate in Derbyshire, cared for by the National Trust, as part of ongoing conservation efforts to return hazel dormice to areas where the tiny mammals are locally extinct.

Despite once being a common feature of the UK’s woodlands, hazel dormouse numbers have plummeted in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and climate change. According to PTES’ State of Britain’s Dormice 2019 report, nationwide populations declined by a staggering 51% since 2000 and dormice are considered extinct in 17 English counties. PTES and partners release healthy, captive bred dormice every year into well managed woodlands across the country to try and combat this decline. Since the programme began in 1993, 1,078 dormice have been reintroduced to 25 different woodlands in 13 counties.

A native hazel dormouse mother and juveniles in a nest box. Credit Selena Bone.
A native hazel dormouse mother and juveniles in a nest box. Credit Selena Bone.
[High-res version, and others, are available]

Led by PTES since 2000, the annual reintroductions are part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme and the reintroduction day is the culmination of months of hard work by several partner organisations, including the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group including Wildwood Trust, Paignton Zoo and ZSL.

Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer, PTES says: “The ongoing success of our annual dormouse reintroductions is the result of a unique partnership and many passionate volunteers who together work tirelessly to help us bring dormice back from the brink and ensure their ongoing survival. Well-managed woodlands and hedgerows are key to restoring dormouse populations across the UK, so releasing dormice into such habitats is crucial for the species’ long-term recovery. The National Forest is home to a huge array of woodlands suitable for dormice, so we hope that this is the first of many reintroductions to take place in this part of the country.”

This year, the reintroduction is taking place in a National Trust owned woodland, where the National Trust’s ranger team and a group of volunteers will be responsible for the ongoing care of the dormice and long-term management of the woodland after the reintroduction has taken place.

Jon Lewney, Countryside Manager, National Trust says: “The National Trust has been custodian of this ancient woodland since 1985, and over that time we’ve sympathetically managed the landscape so that it supports an array of native wildlife, which we’re thrilled will now include hazel dormice. This diverse woodland, which is home to oak, hazel and honeysuckle, will provide lots of secure places for them to forage and nest. With the help of our volunteers we’ll monitor the reintroduced population over the coming months and years to ensure they remain healthy, and in time we hope they will breed and disperse into nearby woodlands to create a self-sustaining wider population.”

This year, all dormice released are captive bred by the Wildwood Trust, a member of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group, before they undergo an eight-week quarantine and receive full health-checks by expert wildlife vets at Paignton Zoo and ZSL’s Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) team. Regular health screening ensures that only healthy dormice are released into the wild, and the dormice harbour only native parasite species of importance to biodiversity, both of which are vital in mitigating against disease.

After reintroduction day, the dormice are left to quietly acclimatise to their new surroundings from the safety of their nest boxes, which are gently placed within larger mesh cages filled with foliage, food and water. Local volunteers will top up their food and water daily, and after 10 days, and a further health examination, the mesh cage doors are opened to allow the dormice to explore their new home. When the dormice no longer use the mesh cages, they will be removed, leaving the dormice to live freely in the woodland. Slowly the dormouse population will increase and in time they will start to disperse to new woodland and hedge areas.

To find out more about PTES’ dormouse conservation work, visit

Hazel dormouse reintroduction 2023 partner logos graphic

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A Dropbox link to high-res images and footage from the reintroduction will be available for media use. For this link, or to arrange interviews with experts, please contact Adela Cragg:

T: 07532 685 614


Notes to Editors

Available for interview

  • Ian White, Dormouse & Training Officer, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES)
  • Jon Lewney, Ranger, National Trust
  • Neil Bemment, Chair, Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group (CDCBG)
  • Katherine Walsh, Senior Environmental Specialist, Natural England
  • Ryan Page, Practice Manager, Paignton Zoo
  • Hazel Ryan, Senior Conservation Officer, Wildwood Trust
  • Dr Elysé Summerfield-Smith, Wildlife Veterinarian, ZSL’s Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance Team (DRAHS)

About PTES

  • 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 two of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell and for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee.
  • Visit and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn.

About the National Trust

  • The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people, Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley who saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces, and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy.
  • The Trust has committed to achieving carbon net zero emissions by 2030, and establishing 20 million trees to help tackle climate change, creating green corridors for people and nature near towns and cities, running a year-long campaign to connect people with nature and continuing investment in arts and heritage. Ensuring everyone who visits feels welcome, and more people can access its places continues to be another key aspect of the charity’s work.
  • Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and hundreds of special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • The National Trust receives more than 26.9 million visits each year to the places it cares for that have an entry fee, and an estimated 100 million visits to the outdoor places looked after by the charity. Together with 5.9 million members and more than 65,000 volunteers, they help to support the conservation charity in its work to care for nature, beauty, history. For everyone, for ever.

About the Common (Hazel) Dormouse Captive Breeders Group

  • 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 Paignton Zoo

  • Paignton Zoo, together with Newquay Zoo and three nature reserves, Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve, Primley Park and Clennon Gorge, are all part of the charity Wild Planet Trust.
  • Wild Planet Trust co-ordinates wildlife conservation projects both in the UK and overseas, as well as research projects on topics such as animal behaviour, nutrition, enrichment and ecology.
  • Wild Planet Trust is helping to halt species decline and acts to protect at-risk animals and plants from the impacts of biodiversity loss.  We believe that every species is important, everything is connected and every action matters.
  • Both Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo are members of the British & Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums (BIAZA). BIAZA is a conservation, education and wildlife charity representing over 100 of the best zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland.
  • Visit and follow Paignton Zoo on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

About Wildwood Trust

  • Wildwood Trust opened in 1999 as a centre of excellence for the conservation of British wildlife, and was established as a registered charity in 2002. Wildwood is Kent’s best British wildlife park. Home to over 200 native animals, past and present and set in 40 acres of beautiful ancient woodland where visitors can see bears, wolves, bison, deer, owls, foxes, red squirrels, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers plus many more. As one of the leading British wildlife conservation charities, Wildwood Trust is dedicated to saving Britain’s most threatened species. Wildwood Trust has taken part in many ground-breaking conservation programmes to date, which include, saving the water vole, using wild horses to help restore Kent’s most precious nature reserves, bringing the extinct European beaver back to Britain and returning the hazel dormouse & red squirrel to areas where they have been made extinct.
  • Visit the website here:

About ZSL

  • ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is an international conservation charity working to create a world where wildlife thrives. From investigating the health threats facing animals to helping people and wildlife live alongside each other, ZSL is committed to bringing wildlife back from the brink of extinction. Our work is realised through our ground-breaking science at the Institute of Zoology, our field conservation around the world and engaging millions of people through our two zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information, visit   
  • ZSL’s Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) veterinary experts help mitigate the risk from disease during dormice translocations. They ensure that the dormice are fit and healthy for release, and free of non-native parasites, and have the best chance of survival in their new forest home.

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