ZOOKEEPERS at Drusillas Park in Alfriston teamed up with wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to conserve and protect hazel dormice populations in the UK.

Zoo Business Manager, Sue Woodgate and her Drusillas team volunteered their time on Sunday 20th September to search woodland areas in Berwick for evidence of dormice using their nest boxes.

In total, 15 nest boxes and nest tubes were collected and relocated to a quieter area, away from coppicing and tree planting.

Drusillas Zoo Business Manager, Sue Woodgate, said: “UK dormouse populations have declined by over 50% in the last twenty years and they are now considered vulnerable to extinction. Dormice face a huge threat from habitat loss, which is really devastating to see.

Woodland areas are so vital because they provide dormice and lots of other animals with shelter, nesting areas and places to feed.

“At Drusillas we always work hard to actively support both local and international conservation efforts.

This year our work overseas has seen us partner with the Sloth Conservation Foundation in Costa Rica, for whom we have now raised over two thousand pounds. And locally we are working with PTES to conserve our local native species.”

Drusillas zoo team usually check dormice boxes once a month from Easter to October each year. The aim is to monitor dormice population growth and decline in local areas.

Zoo Business Manager, Sue Woodgate, said: “We have to have a licence to handle dormice as we need to sex and weigh them and send information to PTES.

They then collate the data on dormouse numbers in the UK at monitored sites.

In the next few weeks, we will be going to another part of the Berwick site to check our other seventeen nest boxes and see how our dormice are getting on.

“When many of us think of conservation we are immediately drawn to protecting exotic animals abroad and tend to forget about our native wildlife.

Whilst it is essential to do as much as we can to protect foreign wildlife, it is also really important to pay as much attention to our local species.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t find any dormice in our most recent expedition, but we are hopeful of finding some on our next outing. Even though we didn’t find dormice this time, that’s an important statistic, because we should be finding wildlife in abundance, and it’s very sad that we aren’t and just proves how important this conservation work is.”

Ian White, Dormouse and Training Officer at PTES said: “There are over 400 sites across England and Wales that are part of our National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, so Drusillas is contributing to a nationwide programme that’s been running for 30 years.

It’s important to monitor the ongoing status of hazel dormice and their existing populations across the country, so we know where best to focus our conservation efforts to ultimately help bring dormice back.

Hopefully, with annual reintroductions and correct woodland and hedgerow management, dormice numbers will start to increase again.”

PTES is a conservation charity that strives to improve the outlook of endangered species in Britain and throughout the world. If you would like to find out more, and how you can do your bit for a variety of species including hazel dormice, visit: www.ptes.org/dormice