The race to rescue Ratty
- Wednesday 20th January 2016
Derbyshire naturalist, writer and photographer Christine Gregory has produced a new book highlighting the plight of one of Britain’s best-loved native animals. The water vole, which was popularised as ‘Ratty’ in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, was once a common sight on Britain’s waterways but now holds the unenviable position as one of the country’s fastest declining wild mammals.
Over recent decades water voles have struggled in the face of increasing pressures – habitat loss, intensive farming, extreme weather events and non-native species all pose serious threats to populations that are hanging on by a thread. With water vole numbers in Britain having fallen by 80% during the 1990s, following much longer-term decline, the future for the species looks precarious. While the outlook is still uncertain, the new book from Christine Gregory offers a glimmer of hope by revealing the remarkable efforts being made to re-establish water vole populations across the country.
Christine – whose book The Water Vole will be published next month – has drawn on decades of painstaking research into water vole decline as well as carrying out her own fieldwork and photographic documentation of their lives along many of the water courses of Derbyshire. In the book’s introduction Christine writes, ‘Today there is much talk of the “new normal” where we have become used to scarcity and absence and any wildlife sighting is a cause for celebration and reassurance that all is well. In the spring and summer of 2014 I knew of several places where I was likely to see water voles; in 2015 I have struggled to find any at all.’
Chris Packham, who has contributed the book’s foreword, adds, ‘They [water voles] have become the fastest declining mammal in the UK. Only the hedgehog is giving them a run for their money in the extinction race. And who would have thought it? They were once so common … it’s not all doom though as we understand the problems and have solutions in the form of habitat creation and reintroductions and in some places water voles are making a comeback.’
Christine is presenting illustrated slideshows in 2016 to inspire and engage the British public over water vole conservation. She will be visiting venues within and around the Peak District National Park. More information on Christine’s wildlife talks can be found on her website www.christinegregory.co.uk.
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