29 September 2015

Native pine martens from Scotland are beginning a new life in Wales, and more are on the way.

Earlier this year, Chester Zoo became a major partner in the pine marten recovery project being run by The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT).

Pine marten. Photo credit: Colin Smith

Pine martens are thriving in Scotland, but in England and Wales the population is in danger of extinction. The overall aim of the project is to restore viable, self-sustaining populations of pine martens to England and Wales where habitat and other conditions are suitable.

To help Wales’ pine marten population recover the project aims to translocate 20 pine martens to woodlands in mid-Wales, with a further 20 animals next year. These numbers should result in a self-sustaining population that over time will spread to other forests of Wales and across the border into England.

The ‘soft release’ will be undertaken to ensure that the pine martens are given as much of a chance as possible to adjust to their new surroundings. This means that the pine martens will be held in release pens at their new locations to begin with, where food, water and shelter will be provided for them.

After an initial settling stage, the doors to the enclosures will be left open, but food and water will still be provided. Over time, these provisions will be phased out as the animals fully integrate into their new habitats. The success of the translocation and the progress of the animals will be monitored closely with camera traps, radio tracking and field surveys.

The Chester Zoo team outside the finished pen. Photo credit: Henry Schofield
The Chester Zoo team outside the finished pen. Photo credit: Henry Schofield

In our first practical involvement with the project, Chester Zoo staff advised on the design of the release enclosures and commissioned their construction. A team of experienced zoo staff installed them in Wales with the VWT team earlier this month. They will be put to good use as the pine martens arrive.

We are really excited about what the coming months hold for the project and we hope that you will stay tuned and follow the journey with us.

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