A new conservation centre on the Isle of Wight is set to become a key part of a conservation programme to secure the future of an Endangered species.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has released white-clawed crayfish into the facility at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary on the Isle of Wight where it is hoped Britain’s only native crayfish species will thrive.
The centre is the first of its kind on the Isle of Wight and will play a significant role in the Trust’s Southern Chalkstreams project.
The project aims to protect Hampshire’s globally unique chalkstream habitats, with a focus on the rare and Endangered white-clawed crayfish.
England has 85% of the world’s chalkstreams, many of which are found in Hampshire.
This new centre will play a vital role in the development of the project and the health of these environments.
It is intended that crayfish raised in the centre will support the Southern Chalkstreams Project's objectives through their release into safe havens or ark sites in Hampshire boosting the wild population.
The Trust has worked in partnership with Bristol Zoological Society for 10 years using their hatchery in Bristol, and the opening of this new centre creates exciting new opportunities for development of the Trust’s work locally.
The new facility at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary allows for the potential to house berried (egg-carrying) female crayfish in the future.
This will increase the security of white-clawed crayfish in the region, and creates the possibility of establishing this Endangered native species on the Isle of Wight.
The facility, due to formally open early 2024, will provide an opportunity for the wider public to meet and learn about this rarely seen native species.
Dr Ben Rushbrook, Principal Ecologist at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said:
“Introducing our captive-born white-clawed crayfish to their new ‘home’ at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary was a very special day.
“Thanks to the national expertise of colleagues at the Bristol Zoological Society, supplementing our existing wild populations with captive born crayfish (of local provenance) has been a fundamental element of our conservation work for over a decade.
"It is incredibly exciting to be able to expand that programme to include a facility within the Trust’s two counties and work more closely with The Wildheart Trust.”
Lisa Banfield, Conservation and Research Officer at the Wildheart Trust, added:
“We are very excited to be hosting the first and only white-clawed crayfish facility on the Isle of Wight at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary.
We have been planning and preparing for this for around nine months, so it is great to finally have the crayfish with us!"