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  • Writer's pictureAlex, Sundew Ecology

Relocation, relocation, relocation

We move wildlife around the countryside for all sorts of reasons.

Much of this is accidental - I have often discovered plant seeds stuck to my clothing or been amazed at an Oak Bush Cricket's ability to cling onto a car at 70 mph.

These movements are normally benign, but when plants or animals are introduced to areas where they are not already found, their impact can be significant. Japanese Knotweed taking over brownfield sites via imported soil, rats destroying populations of seabirds on islands and Cane Toads eating everything in their path in Australia.

Adders are often relocated to make way for new developments. (photo Alex Cruickshank)

But some movements of wildlife are purposeful and deliberate. Species are often relocated to save them from destruction. House builders will sometimes employ ecologists to relocate species from the development site to another area in an attempt to protect them.

Reptiles are a favourite group for relocation - they are rare, relatively immobile and easily captured. Low, black plastic fencing is often seen around sites where reptiles have been removed in readiness for prospective development.

The recent news about Bermuda Land Snails being relocated to small islands off the main island led to me being invited to speak on BBC Radio Berkshire about the local snail relocation during the construction of the A34 Newbury bypass, 20 years ago.

Desmoulin's Whorl Snails are very fussy about where they live - that's why they are rare. They need wet, swampy conditions with tall vegetation. Unfortunately one of the few sites that they inhabit was in the path of the new road, so engineers created a new wetland and relocated as many snails as they could find (they are less then 2mm in size).

Ten years later the pipes taking water to this new 'wetland' were clogged and no snails could be found.

If we are to relocate some of our rarest wildlife in an effort to protect it, we need to to ensure that the place they are going to is ideal for them, that they will not disrupt the exisiting ecosystem and that the new population is monitored and any significant drop in population dealth with.

There is little point in spending time and money relocating species if all the efforts are for nothing a few years down the line.

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