Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Work brightens water vole homes near Llanelli

Water Vole and land at Berwick in Llanelli cleared as part of the project
New ponds have been created and overgrowth chopped back to brighten the lives of water voles living near Llanelli

Conservationists have been working at a wetland in Carmarthenshire to brighten the lives of its water vole population.

The mammals are not fond of the dark so extensive overgrowth has been chopped back to open up land at Berwick on the outskirts of Llanelli.

It has a network of ditches and wet areas where water voles live.

Environment Agency Wales said it was hoped the changes would help the water voles, considered to be one of the UK's fastest declining mammals, thrive.

It has been working with other organisations as part of the Llanelli Water Vole Action Group.

Hilary Foster, a biodiversity officer for the agency, said she and her colleagues had created new ponds at Berwick to provide much needed open space for the water voles.

Surveying for water voles
The land is home to a network of ditches and wetland areas

They are now working to remove extensive scrub from ditches and banks to allow in more light and improve the water vole habitat.

She said the site also provides food and shelter for many other creatures and the project was carefully managed to ensure all their needs were accommodated - especially nesting birds.

"My team colleagues and I often develop special interests linked to where we work," she added.

"I've been lucky because my patch of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion is home to water voles.

"Through my work I've become very fond of these increasingly rare and endangered mammals.

"They're incredibly shy - it's very hard to catch a glimpse of them - so it's a real treat to see one and great to know that they're benefiting from the improvements we're delivering."

The agency said due to pressure from pollution and inappropriate development or water abstraction only "small and fragmented pieces" of Wales' former wetland heritage is left.

Since 1995 it has lost over 2,300 hectares (the equivalent of over 3,800 football pitches) of reed bed, a decline of 84%.

The United Nations has designated 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity and the agency said the project in Llanelli was one of many conservation projects it was working on across Wales.

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