Wildwood Escot’s ‘beacon of hope’ for dormouse conservation programme

PUBLISHED: 11:02 02 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:02 02 October 2020

Adult dormouse. Picture: Tendai Chingandu

Adult dormouse. Picture: Tendai Chingandu

Tendai Chingandu Photography All Rights Reserved

Four baby hazel dormice have been born at Wildwood Escot – its first ever litter of the endangered species.

A Wildwood Escot keeper health-checking a pup. Picture: Wildwood EscotA Wildwood Escot keeper health-checking a pup. Picture: Wildwood Escot

The wildlife charity near Ottery has described their arrival as a ‘beacon of hope’ at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has made conservation work particularly difficult.

Travel to release or acquire new animals is restricted, and the number of animals kept at sites such as Wildwood Escot has had to increase, at a time when funds have already been cut short.

The UK’s hazel dormouse population has declined by half in the last 20 years because of the loss or fragmentation of their habitats, climate change and alterations to woodland management practices.

The new pups are an important part of Wildwood Escot’s ongoing dormice conservation work, which aims to breed more dormice for release to the wild in Devon and around the UK, in partnership with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group.

Dormouse pup. Picture: Wildwood EscotDormouse pup. Picture: Wildwood Escot

Wildwood Escot is already rescuing and rehabilitating dormice, and has begun a project to identify the areas of Devon where they are living, so that their habitats can be protected.

This is being done by placing dormouse nesting boxes in various locations around the county, which supporters are invited to sponsor for £25 each.

Dormice use nest boxes to raise their young and hibernate, so they spend a great deal of time in them.

Around 50 boxes will be placed in secret locations and monitored by licensed staff.

Older dormouse pup. Picture: Wildwood TrustOlder dormouse pup. Picture: Wildwood Trust

The data collected will feed into a bigger national survey of hazel dormice.

The sponsorship money will also help Wildwood Escot expand its dormice facilities, train and inspire keepers and conservationists and increase the scientific understanding of dormice.

Helping the dormice return will also help other wildlife species and nature in general, because a thriving dormouse is often the sign of a thriving ecosystem.

Anyone can sponsor a nest box for £25. Sponsors receive a picture of their personalised nest box at the secret survey site, regular updates, a fact sheet on dormice, a certificate of sponsorship and a personalised sponsor plaque displayed in the park.

To find out more and sponsor a nest box, visit the Wildwood Trust website

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