It’s Wind in the Willows for Kingston, as the water vole, one of the UK’s most endangered mammals is being returned to the wild. Local rewilding group Citizen Zoo recently raised £18,000 in a crowdfunding campaign and will be able to reintroduce the water vole to the Hogsmill River in Kingston.
In the 1800s there are likely to have been thousands of water voles on the Hogsmill River. Even 30 years ago, the water was teaming with them. But since then their numbers have collapsed, and the last vole in Kingston was recorded in 2017.
Water voles are listed as at risk of extinction on the IUCN’s Red List for British mammals.
Citizen Zoo is helping to turn the tide of extinction in south west London with a scheme to reintroduce water voles to the Hogsmill River in Kingston. Citizen Zoo co-founder Elliot Newton is a born and bred Kingston resident, and says he is delighted the local London community has come together to fight for nature.
The crowdfunder managed to raise over £18,000, giving the project the green light, which helped pay for 200 voles from a rewilding professional. Meanwhile, Thames Water and the Environment Agency have agreed to remove a weir in the river. The extra funding above the £12,000 target will let them recruit a dedicated “vole ranger”, and help scale the project further beyond the Hogsmill River, to other parts of the Themes throughout London.
Elliot says, “It’s been just a few years since the last water vole disappeared from the area, so they are still very much in living memory. It’s a recent extinction event.”
The water voles will be released in 2022, and with 200 being released, that should be enough to provide enough diversity to maintain a healthy breeding population.
Elliot says, “The most important thing about this it demonstrates that a passionate community can come together and reverse local species extinctions. I hope we can replicate this across the UK. It all comes down to local people with a vision.”
Ratty would be pleased.