Ratty returns to Essex river

Land remediation and habitat creation in the London Gateway has led to the return of critically endangered water voles along a stretch of river long abandoned by the species.

Ratty returns to Essex river

Land remediation and habitat creation in the London Gateway has led to the return of critically endangered water voles along a stretch of river long abandoned by the species.

The voles, immortalised as Ratty in children's classic Wind in the Willows, are threatened in the UK due to habitat loss, changes in farming techniques and inter-species competition.

Now they have been reintroduced on the River Colne in Essex, relocated from a former oil depot that is being restored as part of the wider plans to rejuvenate the Thames Gateway area on the eastern fringes of the capital.

Thomson Ecology has been working on the former Shell Haven Depot site for the past two years, where a number of protected species have been taking advantage of its undisturbed state.

The site is set to be developed by DP World and the company undertook to provide equivalent habitats on adjacent land before work begins.

Thomson have now designed and created new habitats for the protected species and then captured and relocated the animals to their new homes.

Habitats created included 26 ponds for great crested newts, ditches for water voles and hibernacula and log piles for reptiles.

This week Thomson released water voles captured on the site onto the River Colne where they once thrived but, due to a drastic decline in numbers, are no longer present.

Thomson are also carrying out both breeding and wintering bird surveys to determine if the development has an impact on these birds.

New intertidal mudflats are being created for wading birds this year and these will be monitored.

Sam Bond

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