First article: An introduction
Who we are
From the groundbreaking national surveys that documented the catastrophic decline in the otter and water vole populations in the 20th century, to the recent reintroduction of the pine marten to mid Wales, The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) has been at the forefront of mammal conservation in Britain and Ireland for over 40 years. The Trust was founded in 1975 by the late Vincent Weir, a philanthropist, naturalist and visionary. The Trust does not have a membership, but does have a strong ‘Friends of VWT’ supporters group and many loyal and totally indispensable volunteers.
What we do
A pioneer in conservation-led research, the VWT focuses on mammals in need of help, and in particular those that can prove difficult to study. Our work currently centres on the bats and members of the weasel family (the mustelids), notably the pine marten, polecat
and more recently the stoat.
Our specific niche is as an organisation that undertakes surveys to identify the current status of mammal species of concern, carries out specific research projects to find out more, and offers expert advice to others through practical demonstration. Our work
extends beyond the shore of Britain and Ireland into mainland Europe.
One key area of our work, on-going since the 1980s, is the management of roost sites for greater and lesser horseshoe bat maternity colonies. Today, the VWT manages some 40 bat roosts in Britain and Ireland.
In the south-west of England, the Trust’s reserves include one of the largest greater horseshoe bat roosts in western Europe, and together the VWT’s reserves support a substantial proportion of the British greater horseshoe bat population. Additionally, in Wales, we manage a roost site that is home to the largest known lesser horseshoe bat maternity colony in western Europe, and in Ireland the Trust’s reserves collectively provide a home to 20% of the Irish lesser horseshoe bat population.
The Pine Marten
The VWT’s current flagship project is the Pine Marten Recovery Project which aims to restore the pine marten to Wales and England.
Once common and widespread across Britain, the pine marten has suffered one of the most dramatic declines of any UK mammal. The VWT undertook the first survey of the pine marten in Britain in 1983, providing evidence that subsequently helped to achieve legal protection for the species. Since then, the VWT has continued to investigate pine marten distribution and status in England and Wales, document their range expansion in Scotland and develop field techniques for monitoring pine martens.
Following extensive research, it became clear to all involved that the pine marten was on the verge of extinction in England and Wales. In collaboration with other conservation bodies, the Trust developed a long-term Pine Marten Conservation Strategy, and in 2014, launched its Pine Marten Recovery Project to help restore the pine marten to England and Wales.
To date, just over 50 pine martens have been translocated from Scotland where they are doing well, to mid Wales where they faced extinction. The animals are radio-tracked daily during their first year and also monitored with remote cameras. With evidence of breeding success, the future looks bright for this growing population.
Volunteering with VWT
Today, the VWT is using an increasing number of volunteers to help with its work and we are hugely grateful to all of our supporters. Voluntary work, although often seasonal, includes helping to manage and monitor the bat roosts in south-west England, Wales and Ireland and, in Wales, helping to monitor the translocated pine marten population. We are very keen to hear of any recent sightings of pine martens in mid Wales and have a remote camera loan system for people living in the area.
If you would like to become a friend of the VWT and to receive newsletters and other updates on the Trust’s work, or would like to volunteer please go to our websites: www.vwt.org.uk and www.pine-marten-recovery-project.org.uk . You may also like to visit us at Facebook.com/vincentwildlifetrust or follow us on Twitter at @vincentwildlife. Alternatively email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01531 636441.