Environment Trust, an environment and heritage charity based in South West London, is asking people to donate to their Water Vole campaign to raise vital funds to reintroduce water voles back into local rivers in the area.

To fundraise, the charity is hosting a 24-hour Swimathon taking place at Imber Court in East Molesey, with two teams each swimming for 12 hours. The charity is calling on the public to support this cause and hopes to raise at least £2,000 through sponsorship of the swimmers and public donations.

In the past twenty years, the population of water voles has declined by up to two-thirds and this is one of the most serious declines of any wild mammal in Britain during the 20th century. The water vole is under serious threat from habitat loss, water quality decline and predation by the non-native American mink.

Found along the waterways, the water vole has a blunt nose, small round ears, brown body and furry tail. The intensification of agriculture in the 40s and 50s caused the loss and degradation of habitat, but the most rapid period of decline was during the 80s and 90s as American Mink spread. Between 1989 and 1998, the population fell by almost 90 per cent.

Berny Simcox, CEO of Environment Trust said:

“The plight of the water vole is beginning to garner attention, and conservation efforts are increasing to restore and protect the habitats which are crucial for the survival of this beautiful animal. As a charity with a big focus on conservation, we want to raise money to boost the population of water voles in the local area and we’re asking people to support this worthwhile project and help us reach our target.”

Michael Kerslake, General Manager at Imber Court said:

“We are very happy to support Environment Trust, a conservation charity that tirelessly looks after our important green spaces. The money they are raising will help the charity to reintroduce water voles to our local rivers – that has to be a good thing. Please support them if you can.”

One of the charity’s famous patrons is an award-winning illustrator, Axel Scheffler, who has illustrated some of most well-loved children’s books, including the Gruffalo. He has drawn a special picture of a water vole to support the campaign.

To donate to the campaign by visiting www.environmenttrust.org/appeal/swimathon.

For more information about Environment Trust visit www.environmenttrust.org