White storks, water voles and rare pigs could return to London nature reserve

·2-min read
Plans for the green space (Citizen Zoo)
Plans for the green space (Citizen Zoo)

White storks, rare wild pigs and water voles could be among the many species reintroduced to south-west London in the coming years.

Conservation group Citizen Zoo has announced exciting plans to bring species back as part of ambitious plans for Tolworth Court Farm in Kingston.

The 50-hectare site is already home to bustling wildlife, including the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, but a recent survey revealed only five per cent of its neighbours had ever actually visited it.

Despite being “undervalued and unused”, the group’s urban rewilding officer Ben Stockwell told the Standard it has “incredible potential”.

Tolworth Court Farm (Elliot Newton)
Tolworth Court Farm (Elliot Newton)

“Tolworth Court Farm is an incredible nature reserve, at 50 hectares it is pretty big as far as urban nature reserves go,” he said.

“But a recent survey of Tolworth residents showed only five per cent of people living in the area have event visited it - we want to bridge the gap between people and the natural world.

“One way of doing that is by reinvigorating nature reserves like this and really capturing people’s imaginations with rewilding and bringing back species we don’t see in this part of London anymore.”

The long-term vision would be to create an environment where white storks are able to inhabit and nest.

Citizen Zoo has been inspired by similar rewilding projects across Britain, including the Knepp Estate in West Sussex and Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk.

He added: “There is a white stork breeding programme at Knepp and they have them breeding for the first time in over 600 years in this country - that’s what we think Tolworth can become one day.

“But, for now, we just want to create the right natural environment and that will involve using cattle and wild pigs, such as Tamworth pigs, to graze on the land.”

Plans are still at an early stage and the next step for the group is the secure finance via crowdfunding to carry out a feasibility study on the reserve.

But it is hoped if proposals are able to move forward - and they are already supported by Kingston Council - Tolworth Court Farm will act as a “template” for future rewilding projects in the UK.

To donate towards the crowdfunding campaign, click here.

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