Pine Martens Return To UK Woodland After Facing Extinction
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In a much-needed spot of uplifting news, one of the UK’s rarest mammals has been re-established in the wild in England.
After researchers estimated there were only 20 pine martens left in England, a new population of 18 of the rarely-seen creatures has been successfully released into the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire.
Forestry England, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Vincent Wildlife Trust and Forest Research all working together to support the little guys as they adapt to their new surroundings.
The new arrivals, who have been fitted with tracking devices, have been moved down from Scotland as English pine marten populations face the very real threat of extinction due to extensive hunting and the loss of their woodland habitats.
Conservationists are hoping the animals will breed, spread and eventually link up with a group of pine martens that was reintroduced across the border in Wales.
According to the BBC, Forestry England will work with volunteers, local communities and partner organisations in order to monitor how they move through the forest.
Dr Catherine McNicol, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Conservation project Manager, who will be heading up the monitoring project said she hoped the project would give them the pine marten population the ‘boost [it needs] to become resilient and thrive’.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr McNicol said: “Pine martens are elusive and shy animals. They only give birth to a few kits each year if breeding is even successful, so the rate of marten population recovery in the UK is low.”
Similar in size to a domestic cat with slim bodies, brown fur, a distinctive cream bib on their throats, long, bushy tails and prominent rounded ears, the pine marten diet includes fruit, fungi and a range of prey including the grey squirrel, meaning it’s possible the reintroduction will help manage the number of non-native grey squirrels in the forest.
Dr Gareth Parry, director of conservation at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “[Bringing back the pine marten] plays a vital role in ecosystem functioning and is an important part of work to tackle a biodiversity emergency.”
In 2018, the government's 25-year Environment Plan outlined how the reintroduction of native species such as otters and polecats was ‘key' to nature's recovery.
The organisations involved in the pine marten project said it was hoped that more of the animals would be released into the forest over the next two years, and that a population would establish there.
Let's hope they like their new home!
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