Naturally Native is a project that will save the water vole, one of Britain’s most charismatic mammals, from extinction in the North East of England.
Water vole numbers suffered a dramatic decline in the late 20th century and sadly that trend continues today; without intervention water voles will be lost forever.
As with much of Britain’s wildlife, water voles in the North East suffer from loss of habitat, resulting in its small populations becoming isolated. These fragmented populations are vulnerable to local extinction, particularly when faced with the second major cause of decline: predation from non-native American mink.
Unfortunately, the tale of the water vole and mink is an all too familiar one in which humans have disrupted the natural balance within an ecosystem, and wildlife is suffering as a result. Naturally Native is a bold and ambitious project which will work at a truly landscape scale to reverse this trend.
Thanks to players of the National Lottery, we have been developing the Naturally Native project across the North East.
More than 40 volunteers have helped to resurvey historic water vole sites to assess the current status of water voles across the region.
The findings of these surveys reflect a trend that is seen in many parts of the UK: areas which offer shelter from invading mink (such as the uplands of the North Pennines) support relatively stable water vole populations. However, the lowland populations continue to decline at an alarming rate with very few strong populations remaining today.
In addition to ecological research, a wide range of individuals have taken part in surveys and focus groups sharing their views on our strategies for developing a rich natural environment across the North East where species like water voles can flourish.
We are delighted to announce that a National Lottery Heritage Fund application to deliver this work (in partnership with Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust) over the next three years has been successful, with more than £500,000 awarded to the Naturally Native project.
Naturally Native will provide a strong partnership model, working closely with local communities, landowners, NGOs, statutory bodies and local authorities to reverse the harm done to our ecosystems by non-native species, and will restore a key character in our natural heritage for future generations.
Please contact Kirsty for any more information or to find out how you can get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org