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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
'Ratty' given protection officer
Water vole
Water vole populations have seriously declined in some areas
The endangered water vole has been given its own dedicated conservation officer to ensure its survival in the Cairngorms National Park.

Laura Taylor will lead efforts to control American mink, which prey on the water vole, which was popularised as Ratty in Wind in the Willows.

The small mammal has been identified by Scottish Natural Heritage as a species in need of priority action.

The Cairngorms are one of its last strongholds in Scotland.

Some populations have fallen by up to 80% in recent decades. One of the main causes of its decline is the non-native American mink, which is a voracious predator of small mammals, fish and birds.

The new project officer will work with local landowners to help eradicate mink from the park and surrounding areas.

Laura Taylor
Part of my job will also be to let local people and visitors to the park know what we are doing in the water vole project
Laura Taylor
Water vole conservation officer

Ms Taylor said: "Water voles are critically endangered in Britain and really need our help, so it's great to be involved in a project which is specifically geared to protecting this endearing small mammal.

"The American mink is the biggest concern for the water vole, so much of our efforts will be focused on controlling them to give the water vole a chance to recover.

"At the same time it will be important to check how the water vole population is faring and to identify any smaller populations in the park and keep an eye on them."

"Part of my job will also be to let local people and visitors to the park know what we are doing in the water vole project, so I'll be busy creating information boards and a leaflet to get the message out about just how vital it is to save our water voles."

The Cairngorms National Park Authority and University of Aberdeen are also involved in the new project.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear why the water vole is under threat



SEE ALSO:
Mink attacks threaten water voles
09 May 06 |  South Yorkshire


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