1. ITV Report

Longleat joins rescue programme for extremely rare spider

Photo: Longleat

Longleat has joined an international rescue programme to try and save a Critically Endangered species of wolf spider.

It’s thought that only around 4,000 Desertas wolf spiders survive in the wild within a small valley on the uninhabited Desertas Grande island, part of an archipelago off the south east coast of Madeira.

Longleat is one of seven collections, including Bristol Zoo, which is working with the Portuguese government on the conservation programme.

A total of 52 young spiders arrived at Longleat in December. The plan is to raise the spiderlings to adulthood and then establish a satellite breeding population with batches being released back into the wild to boost native numbers.

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As well as being one of the rarest wolf spider species, Desertas wolf spiders are also among the largest with a legspan of up to 13cms.

Historically there have been no native mammals on the island so the spiders are effectively one of the top predators.

However, the recent expansion of an invasive grass species into the valley the spiders live in has prevented the spiders from being able to live in their normal rocky environment, putting them increasingly under threat. Since 2005 the spiders’ range has declined abruptly.

– James Gotts, Keeper