An East Kilbride zoo is helping to secure the future of a species under threat.

Wild harvest mice numbers have been decimated across Britain due to changes in land management and farming practices which have seen a major loss of suitable habitat over the years.

But at Calderglen Country Park Zoo, keepers have been successfully breeding a population in captivity.

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Heather Ryce, the education officer for the zoo, said they decided to donate some of their animals after hearing about a campaign to bring back harvest mice to Ealing led by vet, TV presenter and founder of Ealing Wildlife Group, Sean McCormack.

Heather said: "I reached out to him after seeing information about the group’s campaign explaining how Calderglen could be of assistance in providing healthy harvest mice to be released into the wild.

"These rodents seem to be faring better in England, possibly due to warmer weather conditions than Scotland, but are still classified there as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

"Our harvest mice are the ‘founding group’ rewilding this area of Ealing which is amazing as harvest mice haven’t been documented there since around 1979."

Heather travelled down to London with a large group of harvest mice and met up with Sean and some members of Ealing Wildlife Group who have managed to provide a perfect habitat to help fully restore the ecosystem.

By bringing back a key species – the harvest mouse – it will encourage the return of birds of prey, such as kestrels and barn owls, as well as boosting insect populations.

In July Heather was on hand to help release the mice into three sections of meadow through a technique called a "soft release".

This involves leaving shelter, food and water in the area so for the next few days they would survive until they acclimatised to their new environment. With volunteers’ help it will hopefully be possible to monitor how these animals get on.

Volunteers will use camera traps and look for signs of harvest mice nests to keep records of numbers.

And the story doesn’t end there.

Calderglen Zoo will continue to provide harvest mice to Ealing for release as the zoo has a successful breeding rate so can be part of this conservation project long-term.

Heather added: "I also provided the group with pregnant female harvest mice which weren’t released on the day. They will provide Ealing with their own breeding captive group which will be used for education and conservation as well."

Heather was also on the BBC this week, with the project making bulletins at lunchtime, teatime and on the radio.

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