Marwell Zoo launches appeal for crayfish breeding centre

white-clawed crayfish
The native white-clawed crayfish is the UK's largest fresh water crustacean [Getty Images]

A zoo has launched an appeal to raise thousands of pounds to help save an endangered species.

Marwell Zoo, near Winchester, needs about £20,000 to open a breeding centre for white-clawed crayfish.

Native to the UK, the crustacean had seen a decline since the 1970s as a result of habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species, the zoo said.

The crayfish would be reared onsite and released into nearby chalk streams.

Marwell Zoo has two chalk streams nearby - the River Itchen and River Test.

The zoo said the species was important for the local ecosystem, acting as an important "clean-up crew" and food source for animals, including swans and otters who build their homes in the waterways.

Will Justice, director of animal care, said while the zoo was best known for its more exotic animals, the team had been working to support the recovery of wildlife in Hampshire for more than 30 years.

"White-clawed crayfish are a really important UK species," he said.

"Our project is an opportunity for us to utilise the expertise and skills we have here at Marwell, both in terms of animal management, welfare and husbandry but also in conservation science, education and impact."

Donations received between 18 and 25 April will be matched by Big Give's Green Match Fund.

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