The Co-operative Offers A Lifeline To Endangered And Protected Species
Released on: June 10, 2011, 4:50 pm
The Co-operative Group
Endangered and protected species are being offered a lifeline
by Britain’s largest farmer, The Co-operative Group.
The Group has set up a team of “Habitat Heroes” on six of its farms across the
country, to help preserve some of the UK’s most iconic species, including water
voles, otters, bats and red squirrels.
By launching the national wildlife initiative, The Group’s farming business joins
leading environmental campaigners who are taking direct action to help preserve
species under threat, in response to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and continuing
concerns over a global decline in biodiversity.
The Habitat Heroes project aims to identify where The Co-operative Farms can make
investments and adaptations on the six farms to improve the habitats, feeding and
breeding opportunities for endangered or protected species, helping to safeguard
them for the future.
The Co-operative Group is funding the project, whilst its farming business has harnessed the support of farm managers, local environmental groups and volunteers to carry out the vital environmental work to improve and sustain the habitats of
species that are indigenous to the farms.
Christine Tacon, Managing Director of The Co-operative Farms, said: “As Britain’s
largest farmer we feel we have a responsibility to lead the way environmentally. The
Habitat Heroes project gives us the chance to look at ways we can really make our
land work for local wildlife.”
She added: “The beauty of this scheme is that we can keep on re-visiting and
revising it. As part of the scheme, we will conduct regular surveys into the
wildlife on our land to find out what is working and where we are seeing positive
results, to help guide the environmental work we commit to in the future.”
The six farms taking part in the Habitat Heroes project are Goole in Yorkshire,
Coldham in Cambridgeshire, Tillington in Herefordshire, Blairgowrie in Perthshire,
Down Ampney in Gloucestershire and Stoughton in Leicestershire. Several of the
sites have webcams to study the targeted species.
The first piece of work to be completed as part of Habitat Heroes, was an artificial
otter holt at The Co-operative’s farm in Coldham. The holt has been fitted with an “otter-cam”, which recently captured rare footage of an otter investigating the holt
on a number of occasions.
For this part of the project, The Co-operative is working with Cliff Carson,
Environmental Officer for the Middle Level Commissioners, the drainage authority for
the middle of the Fens, who commented: “The site at the Coldham farm is perfect for
an otter holt as it is so secluded and it is now a key site in the network of holts
we have created. The fact that The Co-operative has already gained rare footage of
an otter in the holt is a great sign as it suggests they will be keen to make
regular use of the site as they move around the river.”
Otter numbers have declined in the UK since the 1950s due to pesticide use, hunting
and habitat destruction, so artificial holts now provide a refuge for otters whilst
natural habitats recover.
At Down Ampney, the Farm Manager has linked up with Gloucestershire’s Barn Owl
Centre. The centre has created and erected three super-sized four-foot nesting
boxes, called Barn Owl Manors, on the farm. The nesting boxes are the first of their
kind and stand on six-foot high stilts. Their innovative design deters other birds
from nesting in them and makes it impossible for foxes to access, thereby increasing
the chances of barn owls making them their home. The boxes have been fitted with a
high-tech camera system, allowing non-invasive observation of nesting activity.
In Goole, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has conducted a 50-day survey of the farm’s
watercourses to map the positive signs of water voles. The number of water voles in
the UK shrank after their biggest predator, the American mink, was introduced to the
country. With a map in place, the Goole Farm Manager is now able to stagger his
ditch management and clearance programmes, giving water voles the opportunity to
move homes, improving their chance of survival.
At Blairgowrie, Perthshire, The Co-operative Farms is working with local environment
group, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, to monitor the population of red squirrels
in the area and have put up “reds-only” feeding boxes to supplement their diet.
Meanwhile in Tillington, a licensed bat expert and the Herefordshire Bat Group is
advising The Co-operative on how to create habitat and roosting opportunities for
bats, by retaining older trees for summer roosting, planting bat-friendly windbreaks
and co-ordinating the hanging of 50 bat boxes around the farm.
At the sixth farm in Stoughton, Leicestershire, the project is focusing on
pollinators such as hoverflies, butterflies and bees. Wild flower mixes have been
sown on strips of land between fields to help encourage the species to visit and
thrive on the land. The Co-operative Farms is looking at ways of monitoring the
population of pollinators as part of the project and are working with Leicestershire
and Rutland Wildlife Trust to access how they an further support pollinators on the
Building on the success of its award-winning “From Farm to Fork” scheme, which has welcomed more than 45, 000 schoolchildren to its farms, The Co-operative Farms will incorporate Habitat Heroes’ activities into The Co-operative’s Green Schools Revolution to encourage schools to take part in eco-friendly activities. Schools
can register to benefit from Green Schools Revolution at www.greenschools.coop
Protecting the environment and inspiring young people are key elements in the
Group’s groundbreaking Ethical Plan launched earlier this year.
The Co-operative Group:
The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private
shareholders but by almost six million consumers. It is the UK’s fifth biggest food
retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services
provider, operating both The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance. Among
its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s
largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational
objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its
groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas.
The Group operates over 5,000 retail trading outlets, employs more than 110,000
people and has an annual turnover of £13.7bn. Further information is available at www.co-operative.coop
The Co-operative Farms:
The Co-operative has a long agricultural heritage and has farmed land across the UK
since 1896, when the Group bought its first farm to grow potatoes for Co-operative
food stores. The “Grown by us” range consists of food and drink either grown by The
Co-operative Farms, or made using ingredients grown by the business. Caring for the
environment and growing good quality produce remain at the heart of The Co-operative
The Co-operative Farms manages more than 50,000 acres of land, which it owns or
farms on behalf of other landowners, from the north of Scotland to southern England.
Public Relations Manager - Food and Farms
The Co-operative Group
Tel: 0161 827 5290
Mobile: 07770 925958
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