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Why we need to act now to conserve native species

April 22, 2024

Native species reintroduction site, Eelmoor Marsh

This World Earth Day Dr Heidi Mitchell, Head of Conservation Impact at Marwell Wildlife, shares her knowledgeable insight on the importance of safeguarding our native species like white-clawed crayfish and how she was inspired by Marwell to work in conservation. 

Why do you think it’s important to work with native species? 

“The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, and zoos play a critical role in saving species, so we must act now to conserve native species.

This is an especially exciting moment, as we step into our newest UK project to conserve white-clawed crayfish, a globally important, endangered species native to chalk streams in Hampshire. 

Guests will be able to view the animals in our new conservation breeding facility, and learn about these incredibly precious crustaceans, and our work to conserve them in the heart of Hampshire.”

We’re taking part in the Big Give’s Green Match Fund until midday next Thursday (25 April), every donation made will be matched by Big Give Champion Funder – The Postcode Green Trust. So, donate this week to make your donation have double the impact! Donate now.

What else does Marwell do for native species?

“For over 30 years Marwell has worked with UK native species, reintroducing sand lizards, the UK’s rarest reptile, restoring and enhancing biodiversity, on Eelmoor Marsh SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), as well as work in the woodlands and grasslands in and surrounding the zoo. 

Did you know Marwell is restoring a lowland meadow just beyond our car park? As a habitat that has declined by 97% in the last few decades, this precious space is just one example of Marwell’s long standing efforts to conserve biodiversity, on our doorstep.”

What made you want to work at Marwell? 

“From as early as I can remember, I have wanted to save the world, and always knew this would be through nature conservation.”

“Studying for my undergraduate degree in Animal Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation, I wanted to conserve species in a space where people connect with nature and have unique experiences with wildlife, so when an opportunity at Marwell came up, I didn’t look back! That was over 20 years ago, and since then Marwell has continued to prioritise it’s conservation efforts, alongside which I have gained my PhD in conservation biology, developed a postgraduate course in wildlife conservation, and taken on leadership of our UK conservation efforts.”

How do places like Marwell inspire future conservationists? 

“I remember visiting zoos as a child, and those visits shaped my own ambition to be a conservationist, so I know, first hand, that everyone who visits Marwell is just one experience away from being inspired in the same way.

I’m exceptionally proud of our MRes Wildlife Conservation course, delivered with University of Southampton to develop the next generation of conservation biologists. 

It is a sad truth, that many of the challenges in the natural world will not be solved in my career, so for zoos like Marwell, inspiring, training and developing conservationists who will pick up the mantle next, is part of the life blood of who we are.”