For the first time we've successfully reared white-clawed crayfish in captivity at Slimbridge Wetland Centre.
The white-clawed crayfish is a freshwater, brown-coloured invertebrate, similar to a lobster. It has cream undersides to its claws - hence the name. It’s found throughout the UK in freshwater streams where it hides under stones and feeds on water plants, small water invertebrates and dead organic matter.
In November 2018 Slimbridge received a female white-clawed crayfish from Bristol Zoo who was already carrying eggs on her underside. The eggs successfully hatched in June 2018 and eight young have made it through the perilous first months.
Helen Lamont, WWT Slimbridge Animal Keeper said “We were really excited to see our new female raise eight young who are doing well and are already 3cm long”.
The young white-clawed crayfish are mini, translucent, colourless versions of their mother, just over a few centimetres in length. In order to grow into a 9-12cm adult the young shed their external skin called an exoskeleton regularly.
White-clawed crayfish are endangered in the UK due to the introduction of the invasive signal crayfish which carries a disease that effects our white-clawed crayfish. They are also threatened by water pollution and loss of natural habitat.
Thanks to conservation efforts from Buglife, Bristol Zoo and other conservation organisations white-clawed crayfish are being bred and released into wild safe haven sights in the UK that are free from signal crayfish.
Helen said “It’s really important to us that we are inspiring and educating the next generation to care for our wetland habitats and the creatures than live in them that’s why we have white-clawed crayfish at Slimbridge”.
“Our next step is to try and entice our adult-white clawed crayfish to breed here at Slimbridge. We’re hoping that we can apply what we’ve learnt from Bristol Zoo and from raising these eight young to have a successful breeding season this year.”Visitors to Slimbridge Wetland Centre will hopefully get the chance to see our young white-clawed crayfish in January from the Back from the Brink viewing area.