Reintroducing Water Voles

Join our pioneering community led project which is working to bring back the water vole to South West London on the Hogsmill River catchment!

School kids

Project Summary

Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius) are one of the UK’s most endearing and charismatic mammals, immortalised in British culture in famous tales such as The Wind and Willows (yes Ratty was indeed a water vole). Water voles hold a special place in British hearts, however are sadly the UK’s fastest declining wild mammal and without proactive conservation measures they’ll likely be lost forever.

This project is working to bring water voles back to the Hogsmill River in Kingston Upon Thames, a place which  has a special affinity with water voles. Local residents speak of a time only 30 years ago when these furry critters were teaming in our rivers. The famous Millais painting ‘Ophelia’ depicting the Hogsmill river was originally set to feature a water vole until art critics thought it would be mistaken for a rat.
The last official record of water voles in Kingston was in 2014 and they are now extinct throughout the Hogsmill catchment. Water voles play an important ecological role and bring immense joy to people who encounter these fantastic animals perched on the banks of our rivers for the first time.

Progress To Date?

This project has already achieved so much! We have engaged with over 4,000 people telling them about these amazing mammals and the project! We have amassed an incredible group of local volunteers, and through regular meetings and actions we are making good progress with the project. We’ve carried out  habitat surveys, run community engagement events and supporting habitat restoration projects throughout the catchment. However, there is still much that can be done and anyone can get involved to support the project! Please do let us know if you would like to get InVoled here.

Habitat Assessment & Mammal Rafts

We’ve trained a team of 60 volunteers and together, surveyed the habitat along the Hogsmill to identify potential and suitable habitat for Water Voles. The Survey results were later presented to a packed audience at the 2019 London Recorders Day at the Natural History Museum. Following on from this event, we purchased, built and deployed 10 aquatic mammal detection rafts throughout the catchment. These help us to identify what mammals are currently using the river.

Community Engagement & Internships

The project has held numerous strategy meetings and produced a structured re-introduction plan with 20 plus volunteers divided into working groups operating to put the plan into action. The Working Groups for the project include – Habitat restoration, Community engagement, Project management and Fundraising. This project started with a primary component of community engagement to raise the profile of water voles across the borough and London. In total we have run 8 community talks, 7 school talks and attended 5 community festivals.

We have also recruited a paid intern to support the administration and engagement of the project, where the role provided a valuable learning opportunity and supported their career in conservation.

Current Activities

Due to the lockdown we are now ramping up our virtual volunteering activities, which is leading up to a crowd funder which will be launched in August 2020 to help us raise the funds for the project! Check out some of the ways you can support of get InVoled below!

Partnerships & Collaborations

The project is a collaboration with Thames Water, Greenspace Information of Greater London (GiGL), Kingston University and The Hogsmill Partnership. The project will also benefit from the expertise of the UK’s leading water vole expert Derek Gow!

We’d like to send a big thank you to the Chessington Conservation Fund for the seed funding invested to get this project off of the ground, and thankful for the endorsement from the Royal Borough of Kingston Council and the Environment Agency.

Next steps

We are finalising strategic plans for next steps in the project for summer months in response to restrictions related to COVID-19, and will update this section shortly.

HELLO@CITIZENZOO.ORG