Dormice in the ancient woodland of Tortington Common and Binsted Woods will be protected in new homes, thanks to shoppers in Littlehampton and Rustington.
Mid Arun Valley Environmental Survey (MAVES) has received £2,000 from Tesco’s Bags of Help community grant scheme, voted for by shoppers, and the money will be used to help protect the dormouse population.
MAVES fundraising officer Andrew Davies said: “The aim of the MAVES Tortington Common Dormouse project is twofold, both to continue to record the existing dormouse population on the common and to create conditions to make the area a dormouse stronghold.
“It will enable us to track numbers and all being well, to help ensure a sustainable population of these enchanting animals within West Sussex.”
The hazel dormouse, the only kind native to Britain, is now a threatened species, with legal protection. It is an indicator species of biodiversity but numbers in England and Wales appear to have dropped by 70 per cent in the last two decades.
MAVES is delighted that these tiny animals have recently been discovered and recorded in both Tortington Common and Binsted Woods.
The grant will fund 50 boxes to be made and positioned in a quiet area of woodland, enabling numbers to be tracked, and pay for at least one volunteer to train to qualify for a dormouse licence, so they can take, disturb or possess dormice when neeeded for surveys, research or conservation work.
The horticulture section of HM Prison Ford will be responsible for making the boxes during the winter, when it is harder to be usefully employed outside.
Andrew added: “Mid Arun Valley Environmental Survey is very grateful to the prison for the input and support, and feel this is an excellent way to involve offenders in the local community.
“This could be extended by, hopefully, some interested offenders becoming active in our sustainability and environmental projects.”
Volunteers are needed to work on the dormice project, tracking numbers and creating suitable homes. The environmental organisation would also like help with its other work, recording, promoting and conserving flora and fauna.
For more information about the project or for volunteering opportunities, visit www.MAVES.org.uk