Some endangered species struggle to re-establish healthy populations in new areas, through habitat fragmentation, or physical barriers such as roads and towns which prevent their population spreading naturally. Captive Breeding and reintroduction programmes are one method to overcome these problems. Wildwood is involved with reintroduction schemes for a number of highly endangered species. Other species need further research before we can identify the best way to support them in the wild. Since its inception, Wildwood has played host to a huge number of research studies, involving a large number of different species. These studies have helped scientists develop methods to better understand and support the wild populations of these species. All our captive breeding programme species are involved in studies that will help improve their lives in the wild and in captivity. If you would like to know more about conservation work with Konik Horses, Beaver and Wild Boar, please see our Conservation Grazing Page
. Download our Research Projects List
for more information.
Once considerably more common in Britain than they are today, harvest mice have suffered from habitat loss and the changes to traditional farming practices in modern times. Wildwood is helping the captive breeding and reintroduction project for the harvest mouse in central England. One of the novel ways of reintroducing harvest mice to the wild uses old tennis balls from Wimbledon, which make very acceptable nests if planted on sticks in dense vegetation with an entrance hole drilled in the side for this tiny mouse to use.
As a member of the National Dormouse Captive Breeders Group, Wildwood breeds dormice for reintroduction to Middle England where the dormouse is becoming extinct, through a mixture of habitat loss and unsympathetic management. Southern England is a stronghold for this species, but it is becoming increasingly rare elsewhere. It is a mammal most specifically associated with coppice woodlands, but it will use hedgerows, bracken stands and reedbeds.
Pine martens are the arboreal members of the mustelid family, which also includes badgers, otters, weasels and stoats. They are endangered in the UK due to a combination of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and persecution. Pine martens breed slowly, mating in the summer to produce kits the following spring. This means that once their numbers are lowered in the wild, it takes time to build up the population again. Pine martens are extremely difficult to breed in captivity because they are highly territorial and can be very aggressive to one another. Wildwood has been successful in breeding pine martens and we hope to be involved in pine marten reintroductions in future.
Red squirrels are declining towards extinction and Wildwood Trust has joined forces with a number of organisations to help. Our breeding programme has been very successful. The squirrel babies, once grown up are being transported to the Welsh island of Anglesey to live wild, helping form a buffer population and safeguard the species against national extinction. Red squirrels went extinct in Kent in the 1960's.
The water shrew is probably Britain's least-studied mammal and very little is known about its distribution or status. This means it is very difficult to tell whether populations are threatened. Because it feeds on aquatic invertebrates, they need clean, unpolluted rivers, and may have suffered from habitat loss. Wildwood has successfully bred water shrews in captivity, and is one of only two breeding centres in the country. These animals have extremely high metabolisms and rarely live beyond 18 months in the wild. Because their wild status is so hard to measure, it is not yet clear whether reintroductions will be needed. Wildwood is investigating breeding requirements, to establish a sufficient breeding group for possible future reintroduction projects, to be undertaken in partnership with other conservation agencies.
The water vole is Britain's fastest disappearing mammal and this catastrophic decline has been brought about by a combination of poor habitat management, pollution and the introduction of North American mink, a voracious water vole predator. Wildwood is working with several conservation organizations and research institutions, including the Environment Agency, People's Trust for Endangered Species, WildCRU at Oxford University and the University of Greenwich, to try to halt this decline, through captive breeding and reintroducing the water vole to restored wetland habitats and developing research programmes to benefit wild populations.
Scottish wildcats are the only native cat still surviving in the wild. They are highly endangered due to persecution, habitat loss and fragmentation, disease spread by feral cats and the dilution of the wildcat genes through interbreeding with domestic cats. Once widespread throughout Britain, they are now found only in the remotest parts of Scotland. Wildwood has one breeding pair of wildcats, RJ and Carna. This pair have produced several kittens already and we are hoping to continue breeding with this pair for many years to come. There is a stud book kept for Scottish wildcats so that captive breeders such as ourselves can make sure they are mating purebred wildcats.
Large Carnivore Reintroductions
The UK has lost three large predators from the wild - the grey wolf, the brown bear and the eurasian lynx. These carnivores became extinct from Britain largely due to persecution and habitat fragmentation. Large predators play a vital role within the ecosystem, exerting control on prey species numbers and spread, to keep the ecosystem in balance. There are arguments for and against the reintroduction of large carnivores back into Britain. Attitudes to reintroductions of carnivores tend to be favourable among the general public, but negative from people who would be potentially adversely affected, such as livestock farmers. There have been no reintroductions of large carnivores in Britain to date.