On the look out for Water Voles and an extra Cheeky Baby!

July 28, 2010 § Leave a comment


Water Vole Survey!  

  This week RZSS has been helping to survey for water vole activity at Aberfoyle as part of our native species conservation work!  

  Water voles are found throughout the UK but populations have suffered huge declines, mainly due to predation by introduced American mink.  The Water Vole Project was set up in 2008 with the aim of reintroducing water voles into the wild in Aberfoyle, Scotland.  The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is a partner in this project along with Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, Derek Gow Consultancy and Kilgarth Development Company.  

  Back in 2008 the project released nearly 600 water voles into various wetland sites in the area.  They were ‘soft released’ which means that they are put into a pen with straw and food for a few days to give them time to get used to the area. 

  You may remember that last August some of the RZSS team went out to help with the release of another group of 200 water voles and we went back this year to help to survey for water vole activity.  

Monitoring populations after a release is extremely important!

  Since the reintroductions monitoring has been taking place to monitor how the water voles are getting on in their new environment and to see if they have dispersed into surrounding areas.  The introduced populations have been doing well and although they aren’t often seen there are signs that the areas are inhabited by water voles.  These signs are used to monitor the water vole population! 

Searching all along the bank for signs of water vole activity!

  The team spent the day wading through potential water vole habitat near to one of the previous release sites looking for indicators of water vole activity!   Signs that could indicate that the area is used by water voles include burrows in the bank, passageways through the grass down to the water, clippings of  vegetation where the voles have been feeding (they cut the blades of grass at a neat 45 degree angle!) and latrine areas where the animals use faeces to mark their territories.  Some of these signs can also be the work of field voles but thankfully the faeces and size of the passageways and burrows are quite distinctive! 

Does this look like a recent water vole burrow?

  

Buff-cheeked Baby! 

   We are happy to announce that there is a new addition to our buff-cheeked gibbon family! Mum Lucy gave birth to her new baby on May 2nd and the new arrival is yet to be sexed and named.  

New babies are born blonde to blend in with mum!

  Male and female buff-cheeked gibbons differ in appearance.  Females are blonde all over but males have a black coat with golden patches on their cheeks. New babies of both sex are born blonde to blend in with mum’s light coat and then their coat darkens to become black as they get older.  Males will remain this colour whereas females will turn blonde again when they reach sexual maturity.  Gibbons are monogamous, meaning that they pair bond and mate for life, groups usually consist of a breeding pair and their offspring. 

  Buff-cheeked gibbons are classed as endangered on the IUCN red list which means that they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild.  The main threat is hunting by humans for meat or the pet trade but destruction of their habitat for logging or agriculture is also a huge problem.  In captivity Buff-cheeked gibbons are part of an EEP (European Endangered Species Breeding Programme) and so this new arrival is an important addition to the breeding programme!

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