Zoo trust plays part in saving our crayfish

Torbay Weekly

A dozen large, breeding-age white-clawed crayfish have just been released into a privately owned ‘ark’ site in the Backdown Hills.

Paignton Zoo's Wild Planet Trust have been working closely with Bristol Zoological Society, Nicky Green Associates, The Environment Agency and Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to organise the release of this endangered species, with the aim of creating a breeding group of the crustaceans in a safe waterbody or ark site.

The Trust works with a number of organisations and local volunteers who survey the remaining locations of white-clawed crayfish in Devon on the Rivers Creedy Yeo and Culm to ascertain the status of the species. A major part of the project is finding and developing ark sites for captive-bred crayfish to live.

White-clawed crayfish are the only crayfish native to the UK. They are listed as endangered with threats mostly from non-native, invasive crayfish such as the American signal, which outcompete the white-clawed crayfish and carry a fungal disease – ‘crayfish plague’ – that is lethal to white-clawed crayfish. Unless action is taken, they will disappear from Devon in the next 10 years.

The animals were captive-bred at the Bristol Zoological Society's crayfish hatchery and 12 of these breeding-age crayfish were released at the Devon ark site. The date of the release coincides with the start of their breeding season.