Grant for Ratty at sanctuary

SOUTH Somerset District Council has awarded Ferne Animal Sanctuary a community grant of £950 as part of a £2,950 project to reintroduce water voles – the beloved “Ratty” of Wind in the Willows – to the sanctuary.

Water voles are endangered in the United Kingdom and urgent action is needed to ensure the long-term survival of this iconic and charismatic species. They are under serious threat from habitat loss and predation by the American mink. Found along our waterways, they are not unlike the brown rat, but with a blunt nose, small ears and furry tail.

Ferne Animal Sanctuary has seen two introductions of water voles into ponds at the site, where the aim is to develop a breeding population that can spread out and re-populate across South Somerset.

In the first phase last October, 25 voles were introduced into the two ponds nearest the visitor centre, and successfully survived last winter and are now established. A second introduction of 35 water voles, happened last week. The voles were bred in captivity by environment consultant Derek Gow, who also provided support to ensure the new environment was perfect for the water voles to thrive.

Once the population is established, it’s hoped the voles will spread to additional scapes on the neighbouring farm which is only a field away from the River Yarty. The first introduction last October was funded by the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund and the SSDC Community Grant award part funded the second introduction of voles earlier this month.

Chief executive of Ferne Animal Sanctuary Elaine Hayes says: “This funding is very important to us. Water voles in South Somerset were almost wiped out by mink in the past. They are small mammals with a limited travel range and so reintroduction is the best way to bring this beautiful mammal back to South Somerset.

“Ferne is a sanctuary and we have the right habitat to be able to do this work. We’re very excited about the potential for the water voles to spread widely as the population develops, and thank SSDC for their help in funding this vital conservation work. Visitors are welcome to take a walk around the beautiful and peaceful pond areas and learn about the water voles, and may even be lucky enough to see one!”

SSDC Community Grants are awarded to charities, non-profit organisations and Town and Parish Councils. We can award up to a maximum of 50% of the application value and request you have support from your Parish or Town Council, as well as considered other possible funding options. Requests between £101 and £12,500 are considered under this scheme.