If you are planning on staying in holiday cottages by the sea in South Devon any time soon then you may just see conservationists desperately working in the area as they step up their efforts to rescue a native species that is currently under threat from its hostile American cousins.
The crustacean that is under threat is the white-clawed crayfish, one of the largest freshwater invertebrates in the UK, but extinction is on the horizon in the wild due to the introduction of the American signal crayfish, which is more dominant than its British counterpart when it comes to food and it also carries a killer plague.
Our native species can be found in only two Devon Rivers, from which conservationists at the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), Buglife, and the Environment Agency hope they can boost the breeding population.
The WWCT is setting up a public crayfish exhibit at Paignton Zoo and a behind-the-scenes facility using animals brought from Bristol Zoo. Staff plan to hone their husbandry technique and develop protocols for caring for the species.
In the long-term, crayfish that are caught under license in Devon Rivers will then be used to establish a breeding facility at the zoo, with the plan being to release the young inhabitants into secret ark sites within the region of Devon which will offer areas to exist with the threat from the American invaders.