Saving a special spider

Another project shortlisted for our Park Protector Award is the Fen Raft Project. Andrea Kelly, a senior ecologist from The Broads Authority blogs about how they are saving this beautiful species.

The fen raft spider is one of Britain’s largest, rarest and most beautiful spiders. Reduced to only three areas where the spiders were able to breed (known as populations), it was at real risk of extinction. These spiders are unable to recolonise our wetlands as they can’t move between wetland reserves so volunteers, organisations, individuals and businesses have been giving them a helping hand.

The pioneering project has already substantially reduced the risk of the spider going extinct. We’ve established four new populations in The Broads, where the fen raft spider is now thriving in our restored wetland habitats. At the same time we’re making this species accessible and appreciated by a huge amount of people!

The fen raft spider

This is one of the most successful invertebrate reintroduction projects in Britain; if funding can be maintained it will soon see fen raft spiders removed from the endangered list. It is great to be nominated for the Park Protector Award to provide both the ongoing recognition and opportunity for vital funding need to support completion of the project.

So what are we doing?

- We are rearing spiderlings in test tubes as well as collecting them from successful sites and releasing them into the quality wetland habitats.

- We’ve been drawing attention to wider biodiversity issues in The Broads, including water quality and the success of our wetland restoration work.

- Working with local landowners to look after the wetland as well as contributing to the local economy with visitors from across the UK coming to see the spiders.

- Inspiring people to learn to love these beautiful creatures!

There’s still very few examples of successful invertebrate reintroductions, but we have been pioneering new techniques such as obtaining DNA from moulted skills (meaning live tissue samples aren’t needed for genetic monitoring). This means a 90% survival rate of the spiderlings. We’ve also got spider foster parents who are taking care of the spiderlings!

If you want more information, visit our website here.

An open day with new volunteers

For the next few weeks we'll be posting blogs from the other shortlisted projects so watch this space!