Rare grasshoppers released at Wild Ken Hill
- Credit: Wild Ken Hill
Conservationists have caught one of Britain's rarest insects on the hop to save it from extinction.
More than 100 large marsh grasshoppers have been released at Wild Ken Hill at Snettisham, near King's Lynn.
The creatures were once common across the Fens but habitat loss has left them facing extinction, with a dwindling population in the New Forest.
Now a project called a Hop of Hope, led by Citizen Zoo, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants and Natural England, has been launched to boost their numbers.
It has released more than 1,000 hoppers this year at various locations. Next summer, conservationists will be listening for the distinctive clicking noise made by the males which will show the introduced species will have completed its annual life cycle in the wild, overwintering as eggs and hatching in early summer before becoming adults.
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Lloyd Park, conservation leader and ecologist at Wild Ken Hill, said: "Without human intervention, these creatures would likely become extinct in the UK.
"We need to restore creatures great and small to our natural landscape, so we are thrilled to be part of this important step in the recovery and conservation of large marsh grasshoppers.
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"The way we manage wetter areas here at Ken Hill should provide them with everything they need to become an established important part of the site’s ecology."
Citizen Zoo collected wild grasshoppers at several sites in the New Forest in 2018. Half were introduced at a wetland site in Norfolk.
The rest were brought into captivity and allowed to breed in carefully controlled conditions. Eggs were collected for hatching and home-rearing the following summer.
Grasshoppers were kept by citizen keepers, volunteers across England, who fed the grasshopper nymphs every day with fresh grass.
Lucas Ruzo, chief executive of Citizen Zoo, said: “We’re thrilled to have released large marsh grasshoppers at Wild Ken Hill.
"We’ve always admired the ambition and work that the team at Wild Ken Hill are driving forward. They’re pushing boundaries, challenging perspectives and helping to re-wild the future, so we feel fortunate to be a part of that journey. ”
Wild Ken Hill is a 4,000 acre regenerative agriculture, rewilding and conservation site on the west Norfolk coast. It is currently home to BBC TV’s Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch.