Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 09:06 UK

Newts supported by landfill tax

Great crested newt
Five sites have been identified as having key populations of the newts

A project to protect great crested newts in Gloucestershire has been given £34,396 collected from landfill taxes.

The money will ensure the No Newts is Bad Newts conservation scheme will run for a further two years.

The team behind the project said its surveys showed 50% of Gloucestershire's ponds have disappeared since 1950, depleting the newt's natural habitat.

During spring 2007, 60 ponds in the county were surveyed but great crested newts were only present in 14%.

In an attempt to halt the decline of newts the team has held pond survey training days with more than 60 volunteers.

Newt sites

They have issued advice and management plans for 38 ponds, restored four ponds and created a further four new ponds and seven artificial hibernating shelters for the newts during the project's first year.

The species is legally protected in the UK
It is possible for them to reach an age of 27 years
They may grow up to 17cm long (body and tail)
They are nocturnal, hiding on land during the day in burrows or under logs, stones
They hibernate between October and late February
They have dark grey-brown backs and flanks, and are covered with darker coloured spots

Dr Simon Pickering, Chair of the Gloucestershire Biodiversity Partnership, said: "This is a stunning innovative project that will set new standards for great crested newt conservation in Europe by protecting and enhancing networks of ponds not just individual ponds."

The project focuses on five areas with existing populations of great crested newts which have been identified as important in Gloucestershire.

These include Forthampton, Cinderford Linear Park, Robinswood Hill and Whaddon, Stonehouse and Eastington and Kempsford and Whelford.

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