Page last updated at 13:05 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 14:05 UK

Helping hand for area's rare newt

Hand holding a Great Crested Newt
The Great Crested Newt is among the UK's most protected species

Evidence that the rare Great Crested Newt is thriving in new habitats in Falkirk has been discovered by conservationists.

A programme of pond conservation work to clear choked ponds of dense vegetation is credited for the news.

The amphibian, which is among Britain's most protected species, has seen its numbers dramatically decline in the past 100 years.

The work was funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Conservationists said they were particularly excited over the discovery of the amphibian's eggs in one pond where the newts have never been found before.

The Falkirk Area Biodiversity Partnership has been creating areas of open water - essential if the newts are to successfully breed - since last year.

The work also included excavating several existing ponds to increase their size and depth and planting native pond plants to provide places for the newts to lay their eggs.

Falkirk Council's convener of the environment and heritage committee, Adrian Mahoney, said: "We're delighted that this hard work has paid off and one of the area's rarest species has new and improved breeding grounds which will go some way to securing the future of the Great Crested Newt.

"The newts were incredibly quick to settle into their created home and will hopefully return to breed year after year.

"The success of this project is very encouraging but further work is still required to safeguard Falkirk's Great Crested Newt population."

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