It’s World Water Day and we need your help!

March 22, 2024

We’re celebrating World Water Day by helping an unsung chalk stream hero and we hope you’ll want to help them too.

From 18 to 25 April we’re on a mission to raise £20,000 to help save one of the UK’s most endangered indigenous species.

Thanks to the Big Give’s Green Match Fund every pound donated will be doubled meaning we’ll receive up to £20,000 to open a new white-clawed crayfish Conservation Breeding Centre.

We want to give this important species a home at Marwell Zoo so we can contribute to conservation efforts to restore them in the wild.

Did you know?

The UK has 85% of the world’s chalk streams.  They are ecologically rich thanks to the pure, clear water that flows from underground making them the perfect home for freshwater species such as trout, kingfishers, water voles and damsel flies.

We’re fortunate to have two of the most iconic chalk streams in the world right on our doorstep in Hampshire – the River Test and River Itchen.

Swans, otters, newts and heron build their homes on these important waterways, creating a food web that supports itself.

Key to the success of the rich ecology is an important clean-up crew in the form of native white clawed crayfish.

These unimposing little crustaceans are critical to maintaining chalk stream ecosystems and without them, the delicate natural balance could be completely thrown out.

As well as eating dead plant matter from the bottom of streams, they dig burrows that provide refuge for all manner of living things and are an important food source for other wildlife.

Unfortunately, white-clawed crayfish are also Endangered following the introduction of non-native species of crayfish, particularly signal crayfish, which are bigger, stronger and eat the same foods.

Worse than that, signal crayfish carry crayfish plague, a disease that doesn’t affect them, but kills their white-clawed cousins.

Whilst white-clawed crayfish benefit chalk streams by eating invertebrates, carrion, water plants and dead organic matter, cleaning up the waterways, signal crayfish destroy the ecosystem by burrowing into riverbanks, predating native species and even increasing the risk of flooding!

So, white-clawed crayfish need our help, to ensure the species survives, to maintain our chalk stream ecosystems and to ensure the rich variety of species living in these habitats remain.

How to get involved

We have just one week to raise £20,000 to unlock the full matched funds available. It’s a tight window and a huge sum of money so we need our whole community to pull together to help make our dream a reality.

  • If every household with a Marwell Zoo membership donated £2 we’d be close to hitting our target.
  • Get the whole family involved in making a “fakeaway” and donate the money you would have spent on a takeaway.
  • Get your walking shoes on and help the environment. Walk the short trips you normally drive, for every 1,000 steps, donate £1 to help our cause. 
  • Recycle your plastics! For every plastic bottle you recycle, gift £1 to help our cause.
  • Take a refillable bottle of water and cut down on wasted packaging, leaving a little extra in your wallet to help our appeal. 
  • Have an hour digital detox and re-connect with nature. Donate £5 for every hour you stay off that screen!

Most important of all though, you need to get the funds to us between 18 and 25 April for The Big Give to match it, meaning for every £1 you give, we get £2!

Donations must be made via The Big Give’s website. Save the date and follow along here and on our social media channels to find out more.

Crazy Crayfish facts

  • They have an exoskeleton which they shed multiple times as they outgrow it. Their shells are made mostly of calcium so they need calcium rich waters to survive.
  • White-clawed crayfish can carry up to 200 eggs almost as long as a human pregnancy. The female holds the eggs under her tail for 8-9 months and when they hatch, the infants cling onto their mother for the first two weeks of their life!
  • White-clawed crayfish can live for 10 years and are only classed as mature at 3-4 years-old!
  • They’re mostly nocturnal meaning they’re rarely seen in the wild.
  • White-clawed crayfish are omnivores, enjoying a diet of both flora and fauna.
  • They are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. They’re also listed as Endangered on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

About Big Give

Big Give is a registered charity (1136547) that runs match funded campaigns for charities and special causes at key moments across the year. By connecting charities to match funders (like philanthropists, foundations or corporates) and the public, Big Give helps them double their donations. And, in doing so, makes an extraordinary difference to the world’s biggest challenges. It has raised more than £280m for charities to date.

Big Give campaigns have been promoted by celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Emilia Fox, Dame Judi Dench and Stephen Fry, among others.

It’s a simple idea – when the public donates to a charity through a Big Give campaign, it asks funders to match that donation. So £50 from a member of the public becomes £100 for a good cause.

Big Give has supported more than 5,500 charities and worked with some of the biggest names in UK philanthropy and charitable grant-making, which provide match funding, including DCMS, John Spiers, founder of Bestinvest and B Corp registered EQ Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Reed Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, The Hospital Saturday Fund, The Childhood Trust and others including high-net-worth individuals such as Julia and Hans Rausing.