Do you want French Flies with that?
Friday 15 September 2006
Continental small red-eyed damselflies that surf around on their own personal lily-pads are colonising Britain’s ponds and lakes, conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) reveal today.
Small red-eyed damselflies have been recorded in growing numbers in water bodies of Bedfordshire in a wide-reaching British wildlife survey conducted by volunteers working for ZSL.
The damsels, which came over from the continent – probably France – in 1999, were only found to be breeding in the county of Beds for the first time three years ago. Characterised by bright blood red eyes, red-eyed damselflies are very territorial and will occupy a single lily pad leaf and defend it against other males. They can also be seen on all types of floating vegetation, including mats of algae.
ZSL’s UK Native Species Conservation Programme Manager Emily Brennan said: “The damselflies don’t pose any threat to British species – species that find their own way to the UK are considered “native” if they can survive over winter and breed successfully over several consecutive years.”
News of the damselfly has emerged as ZSL finishes collating the results of more than 2,500 voluntary surveys conducted over the last 15 years. Volunteers have been monitoring and recording native species present at London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park – the charity’s two zoos –providing an excellent indicator of the bigger picture of wildlife in Britain. Between January 2005 and May this year alone, more than 330 volunteer days have been spent monitoring and recording all types British wildlife, equating to work worth around £50,000 to conservationists at ZSL.
Also recorded in the survey was the first pair of breeding ravens in the county of Bedfordshire for 150 years (in 2002), the largest population of house sparrows in the capital at London Zoo and the noctule (Britain’s second largest bat) recorded in Regent’s Park for the first time (in 2004).
The conservation of native species is one of ZSL’s key priorities and London Zoo is increasingly being managed as a refuge for urban wildlife. Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in Dunstable has a range of important habitats for wildlife including ancient woodland and chalk downland.
Brennan added: “A huge amount has been achieved to date and we can use the information to guide us in producing site management plans for both zoos.
“Knowing which species are present also helps us inform the broader picture in Britain and, as the survey work continues, we will be able to spot fluctuations in populations quickly. It is a vital tool for monitoring local, regional and national trends in biodiversity.”
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Notes to editors
ZSL’s conservation work is mainly delivered through the UK Biodiversity Action Plan framework.
Results for London Zoo:
More than 50 species of bird have been spotted at London Zoo including turtle doves, spotted flycatchers, kestrels, sparrowhawks, chiffchaffs, green woodpeckers, swifts and grey herons.
Rare and threatened species recorded at LZ include pipistrelle bats and the elusive buttoned snout moth.
London Zoo is a 36-acre site set in the north-west corner of Regent’s Park. By careful planting, food and shelter are being improved for wildlife. Wildlife corridors have been set up between the park and the zoo to encourage wildlife to pass between the adjacent sites.
Results for Whipsnade:
Priority species recorded at Whipsnade include adders, dormice, brown hares, bats, otters, nightjars, songthrushes, tree sparrow, white-clawed crayfish.
Other notable native species found there are skylark, stone curlew, reed bunting, spotted flycatcher, tree sparrow, bullfinch and turtle dove.
Whipsnade is a 600 acre parkland site forming part of the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The site has been recognized for its wildlife conservation value as the chalk grassland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
A bluebell woodland is also listed as a County Wildlife Site and the site also features meadows, hedgerows and water.
The records produced for ZSL are contributed to the National Biodiversity Network; a vital tool for recording and analysing local, regional and national trends in biodiversity.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries worldwide. For further information please visit www.zsl.org
Gorilla Kingdom – opening soon
London Zoo’s most ambitious project ever, Gorilla Kingdom, will open Easter 2007, bringing the forests of Central Africa to the urban jungle.
The £5.3million 6,000m2 development will provide an awesome natural habitat for our gorillas and give visitors the chance to get closer to these incredible animals.
For more information about Gorilla Kingdom contact Emma Kenly on 020 7449 6280.
0207 449 6280