Bristol Zoo has successfully reared 117 white-clawed crayfish from eggs and, collaborating with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, released them into the River Itchen, Hampshire.
Life is hard for juvenile crayfish in the wild, only around 5% survive. By bringing ‘berried’ (egg-carrying) crayfish back to the zoo far more make it to adulthood. Jen Nightingale, Bristol Zoo’s UK conservation manager, explained: “At the zoo we can offer safe, stable conditions and we have a 90 percent success rate with hatching and rearing crayfish from eggs.
“Knowing that we can keep them and their hatchlings safe and raise them to adulthood is a fantastic feeling. Captive populations are paramount in the effort to halt the threat of extinction of this species.”
White-clawed crayfish are the only species of crayfish native to the UK and are under threat of extinction due to the spread of invasive North American signal crayfish, which compete for food and habitat and carry crayfish plague - a disease which is deadly to white-clawed crayfish. This disease can be easily spread by people; on damp wellies, walking boots, fishing tackle and nets. To help stop the spread, conservationists are urging the public to ensure they clean and dry all equipment, shoes and clothing that have been used in or around waterways.
There has been a 70% decline in numbers of white-clawed crayfish and the River Itchen has one of the last remaining white-clawed crayfish populations in Hampshire. By working together with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, as part of the Southern Chalkstream project, Bistol Zoo has taken significant steps to ensuring the long-term survival of this species.
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