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Nov 28, 2011

The South West crayfish project

The South West crayfish project by Bristol Zoo Gardens

White-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) are a key indicator species and the only native crayfish in the UK.  Protected by UK and European law they are globally classified as Endangered by the IUCN and are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority conservation species.

Numbers have dramatically declined in Britain since the 1970s when non-native crayfish and associated pathogens were first introduced.  The south-west has lost 70% of its population, with a 30% decline over the last 10 years.  In response, a Natural England 2010 grant was awarded to the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (Bristol Zoo Garden’s sister organisation), to form the South West Crayfish Project (SWCP) - a partnership of local and national organisations. 

Since 2008 all crayfish populations within the south-west have been identified and locations mapped nine populations of white-clawed crayfish have been established in new safe sites, increasing the number of wild populations in the region by approximately 50%. 

The partnership has designed and developed a captive breeding unit, a bio-secure ‘ark’ where valuable research is undertaken and white-clawed crayfish reared to form viable brood stock for future releases.  The communication strategy has raised awareness of the SWCP, crayfish plague (which can be spread by people) and trapping legislation. 

It has generated local, regional, national and international exposure through publications, press releases and television.  Over 500,000 visitors have experienced the Bristol Zoo SWCP display, numerous events have been attended and leaflets, posters and interpretation boards produced.  The project culminated in an international crayfish conference at Bristol Zoo.

Bristol Zoo Gardens

COMMENDATION recieved in BIAZA Awards 2011 for Best Field Conservation Project

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