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Crayfish in Crisis Find New Homes in the South West Peak

Friday 20 September 2019

Emily Marsden, a Countryside Worker Apprentice for the South West Peak Landscape Partnership with a White-clawed Crayfish at the Cannock Chase donor site.This September saw the human-assisted migration of some of the most important, and most endangered, creatures in the South West Peak.

The White-clawed Crayfish is the only native freshwater crayfish in the UK. This important species is currently threatened by a disease that is carried by the invasive North American Signal Crayfish. Unfortunately the White-claws have no resistance to this disease.

Efforts to support the population of the White-claws are being made throughout the UK, and the South West Peak Landscape Partnership with project partner Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is leading the charge in the South West Peak. The South West Peak Landscape Partnership is a group of organizations led by the Peak District National Park and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through a grant of £2.4 million, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players. The South West Peak covers an area extending from Lyme Park in the north to Onecote in the south, and from Macclesfield in the west to Buxton in the east. The Crayfish in Crisis project is match-funded by The Environment Agency.

As part of the project Crayfish in Crisis staff, volunteers, and ecologists have been working hard to identify potential Ark Sites that are ideal for White-claws to move into. Ark Sites are areas that have been extensively surveyed and deemed to be free from and as isolated as possible from the invasive Signal crayfish and thus keep the new introduced population of White-claws safe from the disease the Signal’s carry.

This translocation, as it is called, from a protected and healthy breeding population of White-claws to an Ark Site will not cure the disease, but it will bolster the population of White-claws in the UK and help to ensure that their numbers do not continue to drop.

Earlier this month one such translocation took place over the course of 2 days with dozens of people from as many organizations coming out to help catch, record and move over 700 White-claws to their peaceful new Ark Site.

Nick Mott from the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the Crayfish in Crisis Project Officer said:

“It’s a great feeling to finally have got the crayfish in. Over the last 2 days we’ve collected  740 crayfish that have been brought up from a donor site at Cannock Chase and brought up to the South West Peak.”

Nick went on to say in regards to the Ark Sites: “The preparations are thorough. We look into the water chemistry, we make sure the stream doesn’t dry out even during times of drought, that there’s no evidence of pollution incidents, the biology’s good, that there’s lots of food and that’s the main thing for them…we had a long list and we whittled it down to these sites.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our conservation partners. In particular we would like to thank Forestry England who continue to allow us to collect white-claws from their holdings at Cannock Chase and to all the landowners that have engaged so positively with the project."

Plans for the future include continuing to help bolster the population of White-claws by pressing on with translocation efforts despite the original project targets being achieved 2 years ahead of schedule.

Remember when you are out and about in rivers and streams that White-claws and Signal crayfish can be very hard to tell apart, even for experienced biologists. So the best course of action is to leave them be, but please report any sightings to your local Wildlife Trust.

If you’d like to learn more about Crayfish in Crisis visit https://www.southwestpeak.co.uk/projects/natural-heritage/crayfish-in-crisis.

Pictured is Emily Marsden, a Countryside Worker Apprentice for the South West Peak Landscape Partnership with a White-clawed Crayfish at the Cannock Chase donor site.

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