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BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)<br />
Pic: ZacharyCulpin/BNPS<br />
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Pictured: The endangered water voles take their first steps back to the New Forest<br />
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Endangered water voles are ready to recolonise the streams and rivers of the New Forest 24 years after animal activists inadvertently wiped them out by releasing 7,000 mink from a fur farm. <br />
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In 1998 members of the Animal Liberation Front raided the farm in Ringwood, Hants, and slashed open cages to let out the voracious predators.<br />
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At the time ecologists slammed the act, saying the marauding mammals would endanger local wildlife which could take years to recover. <br />
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About 2,000 of the escaped American mink were shot or run over by local farmers and landowners or caught in traps. <br />
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Among the native species targeted by the carnivorous creatures was the local population of water voles, the small aquatic rodents immortalised in Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Wilows.