A water vole swims away after being released in Kielder Forest © John Millard Photography
Conservationists in northeast England are releasing 675 water voles in Kielder Forest after an absence of 30 years, the largest reintroduction of water voles to one place in the UK.
The first release of 325 water voles took place on 13 June, with another 350 due to be released in August.
The water vole, known as ‘Ratty’ in the Wind in the Willows children’s book, is thought to have disappeared from 94% of places in the UK where they were once prevalent.
One of the water voles about to be released in Kielder Forest © John Millard Photography
The habitat of the Kielder Forest has been improved by the Forestry Commission to enable the water voles to recolonise the area.
“Water voles belong here and are an essential element of our wild and watery places,” said Kerry Hollings from Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Restoring Ratty project.
“We’re doing everything we can to help bring them back and we’re so grateful to all those who are supporting out work.”
The released water voles have been bred from individuals taken from stable populations in Scotland and the North Pennines.
The release is being undertaken by the Kielder Water Vole Partnership and the Restoring Ratty project is due to run for five years, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.