Children from across the South West have been learning about the plight of endangered UK crayfish as a new series of free school roadshows launches this month, supported by a grant of £47,000 awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
The Crayfish in Crisis roadshow highlights freshwater ecology and conservation with a focus on the plight of the native white-clawed crayfish which Bristol Zoo is working hard to conserve.
The very first roadshow launched at Mells First School in Somerset this week, where youngsters took part in a range of aquatic-themed games and activities to learn how they can make a difference and help protect their local waterways.
Games include a large 3D foam river with interactive team games, aquatic invertebrate identification and the opportunity to see a live North American signal crayfish
So far 10 schools have signed-up for a year-long program of education sessions carried out by Bristol Zoo as part of its involvement in the South West Crayfish Partnership.
The South West Crayfish Partnership (SWCP), a collaboration between Bristol Zoo Gardens, Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol Science and Conservation Foundation, Bristol Water, the Environment Agencyand Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, was set up in 2008 in response to a dramatic 70 per cent decline in numbers of the UK’s only native crayfish species – the white-clawed crayfish - in south west England
Signal crayfish were introduced to the UK’s in the 1970s for the fishing and restaurant industry. They escaped and have now spread throughout many river systems, competing with white-clawed crayfish.
Due to this competition and the spread of a disease which is carried by signal crayfish, white-clawed crayfish numbers have decreased dramatically and they are now classified as a globally endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
The crayfish disease can be easily spread by people as it can be carried on anything that gets wet in infected water – this can include wellies, walking boots, fishing tackle and nets. Zoo experts are urging people to check, clean and dry any equipment or footwear that gets wet in rivers and lakes.
Rarely harmful to signals which can carry the disease, it is lethal to white-clawed crayfish and can wipe out entire populations in a matter of weeks.Experts warn they could become extinct from Great Britain within the next 30 years and the species is now protected as well as being a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species.
Explaining the aims of the school road shows, Jen Nightingale, UK Conservation Manager of Bristol Zoo, said: “The road show aims to inspire children, schools and families to take an active part in protecting our rivers, lakes and ponds.
“Invasive non-native species and disease, such as the North American signal crayfish and crayfish plague, cause extensive damage to biodiversity and cost £1.7 billion per year. Each and every person can help protect their local environment by simply cleaning and drying wellies, angling equipment or any other equipment that has come into contact with river, lake or pond water.
Commenting on the HLF award acting Head of South West, Richard Bellamy, said: “Biodiversity is the total variety of life on earth. It is crucial for the survival and wellbeing of all of us, yet this rich diversity is being lost at a fast rate. We want to encourage more people to apply to us for funding for projects that help to conserve the UK’s valuable natural heritage, and that, like the Crayfish in Crisis project, raise awareness of it, especially amongst young people, who will be its future guardians.”
For more information about the South West Crayfish Partnership Crayfish in Crisis project, please visit www.bristolzoo.org.uk/about/conservation/projector contact Maddy Ivey by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
Crayfish in Crisis project (South West Crayfish Partnership)
South West Crayfish Partnership (SWCP) is a collaboration between the Avon Wildlife Trust, Bristol Science and Conservation Foundation, Bristol Water, Bristol Zoo Gardens,Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trustand the Environment Agency.
The SWCP Crayfish in Crisis project is an on-going project which is currently funded by the BBC Wildlife Fund, the Environment Agency, the Heritage lottery Fund (HLF) and the Pennon Trust.
The SWCP was established in response to the severe decline of native white-clawed crayfish in south-west England and is currently running the largest strategic programme of re-homing at-risk populations of white-clawed crayfish to new safe sites. In addition, innovative captive breeding and education programmes are integrated into the SWCP to support field conservation work.
White-clawed crayfish is the only species of crayfish native to the UK.
White-clawed crayfish are protected by law, are classified as endangered and is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species.
The South West Crayfish Partnership acknowledges and thanks the help of all other parties that have contributed to the project.
Among many key messages the SWCP aims to educate waterway users to check, clean and most importantly, to dry, footwear and equipment after visiting our rivers and lakes. This helps to prevent the spread of waterway diseases, in particular the crayfish plague which is lethal to white-clawed crayfish.
It is illegal to trap any species of crayfish without specific trapping authorisation from the Environment Agency. Trapping also increases the risk of spreading the crayfish plague.
For additional information search for white-clawed crayfish on www.bristolzoo.org.uk, www.avonwildlifetrust.org.ukor www.environment-agency.gov.ukor www.buglife.org.uk.
Bristol Zoo Gardens
Bristol Zoo is open from 9am every day except Christmas Day.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on income from visitors and supporters to continue its important work.
Bristol Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species.
Itemploys over 150 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work.
Bristol Zoo supports – through finance and skill sharing - 15 projects in the UK and abroad that conserveand protectsome of the world’s most endangered species.
In 2011 Bristol Zoo celebrated its 175th birthday. Over that past 175 years, the Zoo has brought six generations of Bristolians closer to wildlife, helped save over 175 species from extinction, established over 30 field conservation and research programmes all over the world, showed 40 millionschool-aged children the wonder of nature and given more than 90 million visitors a wonderful day out.
In 2010 Bristol Zoo Gardens set up a Conservation Fund to raise vital funds to help care for threatened animals and plants – both in the Zoo and through the conservation work we do in the UK and around the world.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 30,000 projects, allocating £4.6billion across the UK. Website: www.hlf.org.uk