The future is looking hopeful for native wildlife from water voles to kingfishers because Waterlife Recovery Trust’s pioneering work is expanding and inspiring new collaborative projects.

An invasive predator, American mink have done terrible damage to native wildlife since they escaped, or were released, from fur farms in the 1940s–60s. The CRT has been working with the WRT to eradicate them from East Anglia for more than two years. Our staff and volunteers have played a key role by preventing mink from Cambridgeshire entering the core area of the WRT trial in neighbouring Norfolk and Suffolk.

Last year, this ground-breaking project celebrated a significant landmark as experts believe that American mink were prevented from breeding across a substantial area of East Anglia.

From country to city

The WRT and CRT are sharing their knowledge and experience to work towards achieving a mink-free Great Britain. New collaborative mink-control projects are popping up all along the East coast, from Northumberland down to Kent and Sussex.

Last August, 101 water voles were released into Hogsmill River in Kingston Upon Thames, London, by a community project led by Citizen Zoo. To help protect the reintroduced water voles they have installed four of the remotely monitored mink traps first trialled by WRT.

Elliot Newton, Co-founder of Citizen Zoo, said: “We’re trying to emulate the WRT’s process and apply it to a more urban landscape. The guidance of the CRT’s Head of Wildlife Monitoring, Dr Vince Lea, has been incredibly helpful in this. The remote monitoring system pioneered by WRT has given us the confidence to do this water vole reintroduction – we would not be in the position we are in now without it.”

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is leading the creation of a collaborative approach to the restoration of water voles across the city, working with other conservation organisations including Citizen Zoo and London Wildlife Trust. As this edition of The Lark went to press, the WRT and its partners, including the CRT, would soon be meeting with ZSL to begin sharing knowledge.

Expanding west

With mink catches declining in Cambridgeshire, the CRT is working with WRT and the Bedford Group of Internal Drainage Boards (IDB) to prevent mink coming into Cambridgeshire from counties to the west. The IDB, which maintains waterways that drain farmland, has generously funded 35 new mink traps. Twenty will be placed in Bedfordshire, 10 in Buckinghamshire and five more will be added in Cambridgeshire.

Tony Martin, Chair of the WRT, said: “We are now entering an exciting new phase, with an exemplar of what can be achieved by ‘Citizen Scientist’ volunteers and great partners.”

PICTURED TOP: Vince Lea in the Bourn Brook on Lark Rise Farm, Cambridgeshire. © Julian Eales.  RIGHT: Water vole © AdobeStock

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Published in The Lark magazine, May 2023