Flooded former clay pit could help save native crayfish

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The UK's endangered native crayfish population has received a boost to its survival hopes in the unlikely form of a flooded former clay pit in Warwickshire.

Local conservation officers have discovered a large population of the endangered natives thriving in Ensor's Pool, Nuneaton which they estimate could be home to in the region of 50,000 of the crustaceans.

The White clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) is the UK's only native crayfish species but is under threat throughout its entire UK range since the escape of farmed North American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus).

The invaders are not only larger and more aggressive but also carry 'crayfish plague', a highly infectious water borne fungus that they are immune to but which is fatal to the natives.

The former clay pit, which once served the local colliery and brick works is at first glance an unlikely wildlife haven, surrounded as it is by an industrial estate and housing developments, but it is believed this urbanisation has sealed the site off from the attention of the American species, allowing it to become an 'ark' for the natives.

The pool has now been declared a 'site of special scientific interest' and it is hoped that the thriving crayfish population there can be used to seed new populations in similar sites around the country forming a series of arks to help prevent the total extinction of this once plentiful species.

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