HUNDREDS of water voles have been reintroduced into Titchfield Haven today.
The haven was dubbed the ‘Hilton for water voles’ by environment expert and Western Downs manager for the South Downs National Park Nick Heasman.
Nick was at Titchfield Haven today to supervise the gradual release of scores of the voles.
Nick said: ‘The habitat here is very good, but we are also trying to look at the entire river catchment, from the River Meon’s start at Butser Hill and flowing through the Meon Valley.
‘Over the period of three years we are looking at reintroducing the water vole to the whole area.
‘This site in particular is very good quality and will act as the core site for our species recovery.’
The water vole has suffered incredibly since the introduction of the American Mink to the country in 1929. The mink was introduced as part of the fur farming industry and many escaped and started to live the wild.
Since then the water vole population has been in decline and there is thought to be around 97 per cent less of them since the turn of the century.
The Environment Agency, South Downs National Park and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust decided to do something to save them.
Adam Cave from the Environment Agency said: ‘Mink have been one of the biggest culprits for the decline if the water vole.
‘We have worked over the past 10 years to detect and capture minks so that we could reintroduce the water vole.
‘Titchfield Haven is a good example of mink control and it has been mink free since February 2012. Although this is very good, it is important that we carry on the mink control project so that the water voles can survive.’
The water voles had been bred by farmer Derek Gow, from Launceston, and released once they weigh over 200g, making them around 11 months old.
Derek said: ‘It is our responsibility to make sure the water vole does not disappear. We need to act now. As a nation we are very quick to tell other countries that they should be protecting tigers and pandas but we are very slow to get our own house in order.’
Around 500 voles will be gradually introduced to Titchfield Haven over the coming weeks.
Rangers will be monitoring floating platforms for water vole droppings to make sure they are settled into their new home.