People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is releasing rare hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) into an undisclosed woodland location in Nottinghamshire in an attempt to stem the further decline of the species.
Dormice were once widespread throughout much of England and Wales, but over the past 100 years, their range and population has diminished significantly due to the loss of woodlands and hedgerows, as well as traditional habitat management practices, and the species is now rare and vulnerable to extinction.
PTES has worked in consultation with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust to carefully select this year’s location for the reintroduction of the twenty breeding pairs, clustering it closely with the sites of two previously successful releases in 2013 and 2014.
Ian White, Dormouse Officer at PTES explains: “Woodland and hedgerows will be improved between the three reintroduction sites, so that as the separate dormouse populations establish themselves in their respective woodlands, they will later have the opportunity to disperse and eventually join up. This will improve chances for the long-term survival of the species.”
The dormice that will be released have been captive bred through the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group. Prior to release, they undergo thorough checks with vets at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Paignton Zoo in Devon to make sure they are healthy and have the best chance of survival.
Gabriela Peniche, conservation biologist at ZSL says: “By carefully monitoring the dormice prior to the release, we are ensuring that individuals of this vulnerable native species have the best chance of forming a healthy population in the wild.
“The dormice undergo a six week quarantine at ZSL Institute of Zoology and Paignton Zoo, during which they receive a full health examination to not only ensure that they are in tip top condition, but to reduce the risk of them passing non-native disease to wild populations.
“The release date marks the culmination of weeks of work by all of the partners involved in the different stages of the reintroduction process, and we can be happy in the knowledge that we have given the dormice the best possible start.”
Following the health checks, the dormice are then released on-site in breeding pairs in their own wooden nest box fitted inside a mesh cage secured to trees. The mesh cages, filled with food and water, help the dormice adjust to their new home in the wild. The cages are eventually removed once the animals have settled into the wood.
The 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.
Katherine Walsh, Senior Mammals Specialist at Natural England says: “We’re proud to support action for dormice under our long-standing Species Recovery Programme. Through carefully sited re-introductions and ongoing monitoring, the project seeks to enable the dormouse to re-establish self-sustaining populations throughout its former range, providing it with a more stable future both locally and nationally. In addition, the programme of habitat management proposed in the area will have great benefits for a number of other species too.”
This year marks the 25th dormouse reintroduction by PTES; over the last 22 years, more than 750 dormice have been released at 19 different sites across 12 English counties.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
PTES is a UK conservation charity created in 1977 to ensure a future for endangered species throughout the world. Working to protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, it provides practical conservation support through funding research and internships; providing grant-aid for world-wide and native mammals species conservation; supporting education, training and outreach programmes; and driving public participation via wildlife monitoring surveys, publications, campaigns and events. Priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafer and stag beetles and traditional orchards and native woodlands.
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 25 years over 400 sites. 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.
About the Species Recovery Programme
Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme (SRP) takes targeted conservation action for species in rapid decline or at greatest risk of extinction. Through this programme we work with a wide range of partners to understand and reverse the declines or extinction of some of our most threatened wildlife. Work includes research and monitoring to identify the needs and ecology of individual species, trialling land management solutions, establishing captive breeding or propagation programmes, and undertaking practical action, including reintroductions, to help species populations to recover.
About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006, our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/natural-england / Twitter @NaturalEngland
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (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
About Paignton Zoo
Paignton Zoo is not just one of the UK’s top zoos and a great day out; we are also a conservation and education charity and part of a group of zoos and charities. The Zoo was founded in 1923 by Herbert Whitley, and when he died in 1955 the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust was set up in his name. Paignton Zoo is owned by the Trust and it also owns Living Coasts in Torquay, Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, Primley Park and Clennon Gorge in Paignton, and Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve.
About The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading conservation charity run by local people for the benefit of local wildlife, with 67 nature reserves – part of a UK network of 47 local Wildlife Trusts working to protect wildlife. The Trust manages the woodland where the dormice are being released, ensuring the habitat offers suitable food and shelter for the released animals as well as wider range of wildlife, including birds, bats and insects. The Trust is committed to future management of the woodland which is vital to allow the reintroduction project to succeed.
About the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group
The Group keeps and breeds the animals that go into the reintroduction sites.
The Nottinghamshire Dormouse Group
The Group provides the volunteers to support the release and monitor the boxes to measure the success of the reintroduction.