RAUK - Archived Forum - Last chance for translocated newts

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Last chance for translocated newts:

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Chris Monk
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Joined: 21 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 157


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Posted: 03 Jun 2006

"Newt colony is hanging on for dear life"

That was the headline on a full page article in the Derby Evening Telegraph this week, as I used the power of the press to bring more pressure on the Highways Agency to rectify the unmitigated disaster that was the official licenced mitigation scheme for the construction of the A6 Alvaston bypass. In 2002 consultants for the HA collected 286 great crested and 1940 smooth newts from a pond that was in the line of the proposed bypass and moved virtually all of them to two very small new ponds created to one side. Unfortunately, like some other companies I could name, they did not make the ponds water-tight and after drying out in early summer 2003 they have dried out in spring ever since. They were reformed by the original consultants some time in the winter of 2004/5 which resulted in them being completely dry since March 2005 !

The firm contracted by the HA to build the bypass employed their own consultants (ESL Ecological Services Ltd who were very thorough - even surveying ponds outside the project area in an attempt to find any great crested newts) who carried out newt surveys as did the surveyor for Derby City Council's Pond Survey of 2004/2005. They both found that literally a handfull of newts had migrated to other pools and ditches near the road but that the population was low and declining and the numbers in the mitigation ponds were only 19 (in 2003), 4 (in 2004), 1 (in 2005) and nothing this year as there is not even a puddle in the bottom.

The City Council have now managed to organise a meeting later this month with the Highways Agency, at which their Pond Survey surveyor & I can show the HA on site what needs to be done. The HA made much of what they would be doing for the newts in their publicity for the construction of the bypass and now what has happen so far is the virtual extermination of the largest colony of great crested newts within the City. If they don't correct this I will certainly be publicising this disaster far more widely and pressurising Defra to take action against the original consultants.

Luckily a few newts were moved at the end of original translocation to a new pond 20 miles away, that I have been monitoring and where they are doing well. If we get proper ponds and habitat back at the  Derby site then we can apply for a licenced translocation of eggs to bring some of original population home.

 


Chris
Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group
www.derbyshirearg.co.uk
Chris Monk
Senior Member
Joined: 21 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 157


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Posted: 03 Aug 2006

Update on this story.

Had a meeting at the end of June with Highways Agency, their ecological contractors, English Nature, & Derby City. Hopefully the HA will now try and provide the replacement breeding ponds. Initially they are trying to get their bentonite rawlmat lined ponds to work (ie hold water) by sourcing water to fill them. If the bentonite doesn't swell up and work then they have said they will consider another attempt to re-construct the ponds. The good news was that the HA contact seemed willing to pursue this and that English Nature agreed to send a strong letter (drafted by Bev from Derby City and myself) that he could use within the HA to get the money to do the works.

That one might end happily but on another site where the owner has completely bulldozed a GCN pond surroundings, I ended up having to report it to the police as a criminal incident. Without a Wildlife Liaison Officer they had no idea what the problem was and suggested I contact the RSPCA if I was worried about the newts. (Apparently English Nature had had the "contact the RSPCA" response recently when phoning the police to report felling of a mature tree containing bats). In the end I had to go into the local nick and make a witness statement in which I had to explain to the police what laws had been broken and how.


Chris
Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group
www.derbyshirearg.co.uk
Vicar
Senior Member
Joined: 02 Sep 2004
No. of posts: 1181


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Posted: 04 Aug 2006

Annoying !

As I understand the situation, it is up to individual Chief Constables to decide whether they have a Police Wildlife Crime Officer..or not.

This type of wildlife crime is not notifiable to the Home Office, hence effort deployed into enforcing such crime will not help the police force to meet its targets. (He could use a value for budget argument here too).

Although it does appear that Derbyshire is one of the few exceptions, in not having even a part-time PWCO. I wonder if its worth writing a letter to the CC and chair of the Police Authority asking them for clarification of their wildlife crime strategy? (not mentioned in their report or strategic plan!). Or better still, contact PAW for advice?

There is of course now a national wildlife crime unit, but they appear to be focused more upon CITES than domestic issues.

You gotta ask what is the point of better legal protection, if the enforcement is lacking, but I guess you need an egg before you get a Chicken?

Vicar38933.3550694444
Steve Langham - Chairman    
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG).
Chris Monk
Senior Member
Joined: 21 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 157


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Posted: 13 Aug 2006

The annoying thing is that Derbyshire used to lead the way with Police Wildlife Liasion Officers. The last one, who has now retired and spends his time organising the guarding of the Peak District hen harrier nests, got very fed up with his immediate superiors. They just regarded him as an ordinary PC in their team and kept diverting him from investigating wildlife crime to filling in on traffic work etc for others who were off sick, on leave etc. A previous officer with a national reputation was transferred to work in the IT section for the last year before his retirement, despite only having a general knowledge of computers.

The local EN team leader has organised a meeting with the Chief Constable, apparently they are meant to be recruiting a replacement.


Chris
Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group
www.derbyshirearg.co.uk
Chris Monk
Senior Member
Joined: 21 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 157


View other posts by Chris Monk
Posted: 14 Dec 2006

Possibly welcome developments on the A6 Bypass GCN mitigation disaster - but still may be too late for the newts.

Initially in the autumn the Highways Agency's consultants filled the rawlmat lined ponds with tanker loads of fresh water to try and make it hold water. 24 hours later it was dry! Earlier this month in conjunction with the rawlmat suppliers they completely re-constructed it with a new liner and filled it with water. It appears to be holding water but the question is with no breeding for the last 5 years have enough of the 260 GCN and 1,900 SN survived to try and rescue the populations next spring.

Therefore we might have to go for a conservation licence to collect eggs from the newts moved 20 miles away and take them back to Derby to restock the area if nothing is seen in the mitigation ponds.


Chris
Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group
www.derbyshirearg.co.uk
Chris Monk
Senior Member
Joined: 21 Apr 2004
No. of posts: 157


View other posts by Chris Monk
Posted: 17 May 2007

Latest update

We were out with the Highways Agency and AmScott staff last week for one of their monitoring visits. Both mitigation ponds are still full of water but have no vegetation yet as they were only reconstructed in December.

Out of the 260 GCN moved there in 2002 the most seen in the ponds this spring was 12, though there was only 1 male in one pond and one female in the other pond last week. Of the 1,900 smooth newts about 30 / 40 have been seen. Whether the female GCN seen this year (4) can lay enough eggs to successfully get the population going again remains to be seen over the next few years.

The remaining problem with the site is vandalism, we had to remove a 6ft scaffold pole from within the enclosure as it could have been used to damage the rawlmat lining. Over the last few years the only GCN pond in the vicinity is a new one that was constructed a year after the translocation and situated about 200m from the mitigation ponds. Some of the GCN did find this pond as there were torchlight counts of around 9 or 10 adults in previous years. Unfortunately it was built with a plastic liner covered in geotextile and the local youths have managed to puncture it so that it is now almost dry.


Chris
Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group
www.derbyshirearg.co.uk

- Last chance for translocated newts

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