VITACRESS, which is based on the edge of St Mary Bourne, is now a major partner in a project designed to save a threatened population of crayfish from extinction in Britain.

A launch event was held in July to mark a new partnership between Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Vitacress Conservation Trust, who will work together on the Southern Chalkstreams Project, that aims to conserve and protect the last remaining white clawed crayfish populations in Hampshire.

The Vitacress Conservation Trust joins the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Bristol Zoological Society as key partners supporting the vital work of the Southern Chalkstreams Project.

The launch event took place on a private watercress farm in the Itchen Valley, near Winchester, where work has been carried out to help restore and maintain the important chalkstream habitat, essential to the survival of the white-clawed crayfish. Vitacress Conservation Trust’s Dr Steve Rothwell and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Ecologist, Dr Ben Rushbrook, discussed conservation plans for the Itchen Valley, which includes working closely with the Bristol Zoological Society on cutting-edge efforts to rear and release the endangered white-clawed crayfish, into their native habitat.

White-clawed crayfish are the only species of crayfish native to the UK, and became classified as Globally Endangered in 2010 (IUCN).

Up to 95 per cent of white-clawed crayfish populations in the UK have been lost, and the species may become at risk of extinction in the next 20-30 years.

Dr Ben Rushbrook, of Hampshire Wildlife Trust said: “We are very grateful to the Vitacress Conservation Trust for funding this essential work.

“This partnership represents a very important step forward in increasing the likelihood of ensuring the long-term survival of this species in Hampshire.”