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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 21:49 GMT
Important role for tiny creature
The dormouse should come out of hibernation in April
A tiny Devon rodent could soon be playing a vital part in the survival of his species.

The dormouse from Haldon Forest Park has been chosen for a captive breeding programme by the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

Dormouse numbers across the UK are declining, but experts hoped the PTES scheme will help reverse the problem.

The furry little creature is currently gathering strength as he hibernates at Paignton Zoo.

The dormouse recovery programme has been running for 12 years and has been responsible for the reintroduction of the species in parts of England, where it had become locally extinct or extremely rare.

Park monitoring

Haldon Forest Park's 3,500 acres of woodland is almost a perfect habitat for the creatures, which normally live in hedgerows and woods, said PTES.

Ian Parsons, a ranger at the park near Exeter, has been monitoring Haldon's dormouse population.

He said: "We're lucky to have quite a healthy population here at Haldon, so we could spare one of our young males for the programme.

"We're hoping that he'll perform well for it."

The dormouse is not due to come out of hibernation until April, but PTES said it was hopeful the new genes would be added to the population in the summer.

Paignton Zoo is also involved in the project, which is jointly run and funded by PTES and English Nature.

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