Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Water Vole — an Endangered Semi Aquatic Species Facing Survival Issues

Round-faced, short-tailed and often mistaken as simple rodent, water vole is a European mammal. This mammal loves to reside by the slow river banks, lakes or ponds and has many levels of habitats in the reservoirs. Known as Arvicola amphibious scientifically, these strong swimmers’ floor levels help prevent flooding. And, the sharp decrease in the number of water voles is also one of the reasons why Europe is facing intense situation of flood now and then.

According to one study, in 1990, UK had more than seven million water voles but by 1998 it reached to even less than million. And this pattern of decrease is now so consistent, that since 2008, it has become illegal to kill water voles intentionally. It would be indeed interesting to know that water voles daily eat 80% of their body weight and they survive by eating more than 150 different species of plant.

However, given that these species have declined significantly, water voles are protected in England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) under Section 9. According to this law, it is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb water voles whilst occupying a structure or place used for their habitat. Also, it is a criminal offence to intentionally kill, injure or take water voles. Therefore, when you are planning a new habitat or house, ecology consultancy services play an important role. Such service providers have schemes such as passive persuasion which includes using water vole exclusion fencing. This fencing encourages water voles to move to nearby alternative habitats or exclusion from the development area. However, in a situation, when there is no escape from ‘intentional’ damage, an ecology consultancy needs to have a Natural England license. This license allows the ecologist to trap and translocate the animals to an onsite or nearby receptor habitat. This option however is the last resort and faces stringent criteria.