Conservationists celebrate as harvest mice thrive in Chester Zoo’s Nature Corridor
Conservationists at Chester Zoo are celebrating after scientific surveys conducted in and around the zoo’s 30-hectare Nature Corridor showed strong densities of harvest mice breeding-nests.
This comes two decades after the zoo first reintroduced hundreds of harvest mice in an experimental breed and release programme, which was set up to help inform potential reintroduction efforts across the UK.
Despite studies showing the species to be declining elsewhere in the UK due to habitat loss and intensive agriculture, the descendants of the harvest mice reintroduced by the zoo are now thriving.
Harvest mice are the smallest rodents in the UK, weighing less than a 2p coin.
They are the only British mammal to have a prehensile tail, making them a unique and important part of the ecosystem.
As a conservation concern in the UK, they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and are listed as a ‘priority species’ under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Harvest mice play a significant role as a food source for many native predators.
The release was led by Chester Zoo’s Registrar, Penny Rudd, who has been championing the conservation of harvest mice for over 42 years.
She personally microchipped all 960 mice during the release.
Rudd expressed her pride in the harvest mouse recovery work and highlighted the importance of being the guardians of the UK’s own wildlife.
Helen Bradshaw, the UK Regional Field Programme Manager at Chester Zoo, stated that the nature reserve is a flagship landscape for their efforts to recover local biodiversity.
She encouraged people to play their part in protecting this iconic species by helping local wildlife charities with harvest mice nest surveys and recording sightings to the Mammal Society and wildlife record centres.
Leaving long-grass and bramble-patches in gardens and local parks can also help ensure that these animals have a future on our wild isles.
The conservation success of the harvest mice reintroduction programme at Chester Zoo highlights the importance of protecting and conserving native species in the UK.
With biodiversity in decline across the country and many species on the brink of extinction, collecting standardized data is vital to help create effective strategies that protect and connect habitats. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com