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Hundreds of Britain’s biggest native spiders, which can grow to be three inches wide, have been released into the wild as part of a project aimed at helping them repopulate.
Fen raft spiders were listed as an endangered species in recent years after their numbers dwindled due to “human encroachment.”
Zookeepers from the Chessington World of Adventures (CWoA) have been working on a conservation program since 2011 to ensure their survival, and released 400 spiderlings reared in their breeding program back into the wild.
The arachnids, distinctive looking with brown or black bodies with white or cream stripes along their sides, live in fens and other wetlands and are able to move across water because of their hairy legs.
They eat other smaller spiders, dragonfly larvae and pond skaters, and can also eat tadpoles and small fish.
The species, which can be found across mainland Europe and some areas in the south of England and Wales, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act due to their high risk of extinction.
CWoA’s program has seen the population almost double, and the species will no longer need rearing in zoos to ensure survival.
The group has won gold at the annual BIAZA awards, which rewards organizations for their conservation efforts.