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News article created on 11 October 2016

Rare newts spotted for the first time on Gloucestershire canal

Rare great crested newts have been found living alongside the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.

Great Crested Newt

Ecologists from the Trust have confirmed the sighting, which is the first report of the protected species in the canal’s nearly 200 year history.

Once widespread across the country, great crested newts have suffered a sharp decline in the last 50 years, and are now a priority species of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Also known as ‘warty newts’, they need safe, sheltered places to live on land, and still pools or ponds to breed in.  Habitat loss and fragmentation due to land development and agricultural expansion has been a key cause of their decline.

Laura Mullholland, ecologist at the Trust, said: "We’re delighted that great crested newts have made a home on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. Most people don’t realise that these newts live on land most of the time, and only go into water to breed. Their ‘warty’ reputation often doesn’t endear them to people, but they’re really like mini swimming dinosaurs, especially the males who display a jagged crest during breeding season, kind of like a tiny stegosaurus. 

"The canal fringes and largely undisturbed grassland alongside hedges and woodlands, as well as the habitat piles we make when we carry out our vegetation work, provide the ideal mix of habitats for them to stay out of the sun in the summer and hunker down in winter – somewhere where it’s damp and sheltered. This is something that the UK newt population often struggles to find, so we’re really excited that they’ve found the right balance on the canal. Hopefully this is good news for the newt population as a whole."