Marwell Wildlife has launched an appeal to raise £20,000 to help save one of the UK’s most endangered native species by opening a breeding centre at the zoo near Winchester.

White-clawed crayfish are incredibly important to chalk streams, like the two right on Marwell’s doorstep in Hampshire – the River Itchen and River Test. Although their population has drastically declined since the 1970s as a result of habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species so, we need to act now.

In the wild, the species acts as an important “clean-up crew” and food source for animals, including swans and otters who build their homes on these important waterways. Without them, the delicate natural balance could be under threat.  

With the public’s help, Marwell will open the brand-new breeding centre at the zoo. Using the organisation’s expertise in animal welfare, husbandry, and conservation science, the teams will rear and care for the species prior to their release in Hampshire.

Marwell's 'Save our claws campaign' has set out to raise £20,000 in just one week by doubling public donations through the Big Give Campaign
Marwell's 'Save our claws campaign' has set out to raise £20,000 in just one week by doubling public donations through the Big Give Campaign (Marwell Wildlife)

Guests at the zoo will be able to visit the centre and see first-hand the project they funded come to life. Inside the centre, there will be opportunities to see the crayfish up close, observe the team’s work, and learn all about this small but mighty species.

Marwell is taking an active role in supporting the survival of this species in Hampshire, but they can’t do it without help.

The Hampshire-based conservation charity is taking part in the Big Give’s Green Match Fund – and for one week only all donations will be doubled.

From midday today (Thursday, April 18) until midday next Thursday (April 25), every donation made will be matched by Big Give Champion Funder – The Postcode Green Trust. So, donate this week to make your donation have double the impact.

Donations must be made via The Big Give’s website here:

European freshwater crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes). Portrait under a leaf. Liguria. Italy.
European freshwater crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes). Portrait under a leaf. Liguria. Italy. (Shutterstock)

Dr Will Justice, director of Animal Care at Marwell Zoo, said: “Marwell is probably best known for its more exotic animals and for our conservation work with big cats, Grevy’s zebra and Scimitar-horned oryx, but we’ve been working for over 30 years to support the recovery of nature and wildlife here in Hampshire and across the southcoast too.

“White-clawed crayfish are a really important UK species. Our project is an opportunity for us to utilise the expertise and skills we have here at Marwell both in terms of animal management, welfare and husbandry but also in conservation science, education and impact. 

Together with our supporters and through the Green Match Fund, we can help to protect and save part of our own natural heritage. Making a difference to wildlife on our own doorstep.”

Marwell Wildlife is a conservation and education charity (Registered Charity No. 275433) based in Hampshire. Founded in 1972, Marwell is dedicated to protecting and restoring nature, supporting sustainable living, and forging stronger connections between nature and people.

To support Marwell’s conservation projects spanning the globe, the charity operates Marwell Zoo and welcome more than 500,000 guests each year. By experiencing the wonders of the animal kingdom, people are inspired to connect with nature. This awareness drives positive change and motivates others to join the fight for nature’s recovery.

About Big Give 

Big Give is a registered charity (1136547) that runs match funded campaigns for charities and special causes at key moments across the year. By connecting charities to match funders (like philanthropists, foundations or corporates) and the public, Big Give helps them double their donations. And, in doing so, makes an extraordinary difference to the world’s biggest challenges. It has raised more than £280m for charities to date.

Big Give campaigns have been promoted by celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Emilia Fox, Dame Judi Dench and Stephen Fry, among others.

It’s a simple idea – when the public donates to a charity through a Big Give campaign, it asks funders to match that donation. So £50 from a member of the public becomes £100 for a good cause.

Big Give has supported more than 5,500 charities and worked with some of the biggest names in UK philanthropy and charitable grant-making, which provide match funding, including DCMS, John Spiers, founder of Bestinvest and B Corp registered EQ Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Reed Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, The Hospital Saturday Fund, The Childhood Trust and others including high-net-worth individuals such as Julia and Hans Rausing.