Rare British hazel dormice have been given their final check-up by wildlife vets ahead of their planned release into the wild next month.

The health check is part of ongoing conservation work to protect this tiny, vulnerable mammal, once common across England and Wales.

Expert vets at conservation charity ZSL's Institute of Zoology ensured that these sweet-natured rodents are fit and healthy before their release to a secret woodland location - part of a long-term project to rebuild populations and restore the range of this native species. During each 20-gram dormouse's 10-minute appointment with the expert team, they were placed under a dormice-sized dose of general anaesthetic while their heart and lungs were checked with a stethoscope.

Their eyes, ears, nose, teeth and fur were also visually examined, and a tiny microchip was gently placed under their skin to allow for easy identification in post-release monitoring.

Dr Elysé Summerfield-Smith, health-check co-ordinator, said: "While still common in mainland Europe, UK dormice number have drastically fallen over the last 100 years - linked to the loss of habitats - and the British population is now mostly confined to southern England and Wales, leaving these iconic native rodents vulnerable to extinction."

Elysé continued: "Through our health checks we play a key role in fighting this ongoing decline, and for the last 30 years we have helped reintroduce over 1,000 dormice to 25 different sites across the UK - making the hazel dormouse one of the most successfully reintroduced species in the UK."

2023-05-25T17:10:51Z dg43tfdfdgfd