Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Water Vole Heroes
I've lately been doing some research for a magazine article, and also for a talk at Walford College's Bioblotz
and it's struck me just how many people are working hard nationwide to save the water vole.
I've lost count of the folk who track and log these animals, who lobby their council planning departments, who travel the country taking wonderful photographs to raise the species' profile. This year I've met up with Richard Steel (link to his website is on the right); with Vicky Nall and team at the Cheshire Wildlife Trust; with Gareth Parry who's studying the effect of carnivores on vole populations; and with John Harding and Rosie Rees who've been putting together a film about water vole behaviour. The Whitchurch Water Vole group led by Malcolm Monie continue to do vital habitat management and survey work, and online I've been following vole news from Views of the Ock (link right) and Jo Cartmell, amongst others. There's a substantial network of men and women doing their best to halt the decline of the species and help build up numbers again.
But three people I've come across lately deserve a special mention for the good they do. The first is Rob Strachan, who currently works for the environment agency and co-authored what I believe is the definitive guide to water vole mitigation, The Water Vole Conservation Handbook. He also gives excellent talks and is a mine of information on riparian wildlife generally.
Secondly there's Derek Gow, a man who actually farms water voles: http://www.watervoles.com/ He offers training days to help with issues like translocation when voles need saving from building developments, and he provides voles for release when conservationists are trying to re-stock sites where those animals once were. To say he loves his work would be an understatement.
And lastly, Professor Xavier Lambin of Aberdeen university, who's been in the news this week with his findings of water vole dispersal models: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19503827 Once again his investigations underline the need to preserve wildlife corridors as well as individual colonies themselves, and avoid habitat fragmentation.
It's good to have so many on the case, volunteers and professionals at all levels. Given the problems water voles face at the moment, they need all the allies as they can get.