Photos (above and below) by Nicky Hoar
A new safe haven has been unveiled for the endangered White-clawed crayfish by the South West Crayfish Project where the animals will hopefully thrive undisturbed due to their location on Ministry of Defence land in Dorset.
A team from Dorset Wildlife Trust, Avon Wildlife Trust, Buglife, the Environment Agency and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation worked over two days to move the creatures from their at-risk location to their new home at Lulworth Ranges.
A fresh start
The new home for these crayfish is the 13th ‘Ark’ site to be established by the South West Crayfish Partnership. These sites have seen the populations of White-clawed crayfish rise by 70% since work began.
Sarah Williams, conservation officer for Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: "Dorset Wildlife Trust is really pleased to be helping to increase the good habitat areas for crayfish. They can still survive in our rivers, but in the long term we need to establish populations in our Ark sites, such as the new one in at Lulworth ranges."
Andrew Whitehouse, South West Manager for Buglife, said: "Establishing Ark sites is our best chance of ensuring that South West England’s White-clawed crayfish have a brighter future. This new Ark site in Dorset is a great example of how a large number of organisations can work together to save some of our most threatened species. We hope that the crayfish will thrive in their new home.”
The White-clawed crayfish is the UK’s only native crayfish and is under threat of extinction in South West England in particular due to the spread of the non-native American signal crayfish.
Crayfish fact file:
- Freshwater crayfish are cousins of sea-living lobsters.
- They were once widespread in streams and rivers in England and Wales.
- White-clawed crayfish can grow up to 12cm total length; some non-native species can grow to twice this size.
- Crayfish feed on everything from plants, to small invertebrates and leaf litter.
- 70% of the South West’s White-clawed crayfish populations have been lost since the 1970s.