Hundreds of “rat-sized” arachnids have been reintroduced into the British countryside as part of a project aimed at saving endangered spider species.
The “fen raft” spider is the largest spider native to the UK, but their numbers have dwindled in recent years due to “human encroachment”.
The distinctive eight-legged creepy crawlies have dark bodies with light-coloured stripes on them and are so large that they are known to eat prey as large as fish.
Zookeepers at Chessington World of Adventures Resort decided to take action to conserve the vulnerable species and released 400 spiderlings reared in their breeding programme back into the wild.
In news sure to set arachnophobes’ teeth on edge, the programme was deemed a huge success and wild numbers have almost doubled since the reintroduction.
The team at the zoo received an award commending them on their efforts from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).
Keith Russell, a supervisor within the Zoo team at Chessington, said:“The successful work on reintroducing the Fen Raft species is a great example of the good zoos can do in helping conserve endangered species in the wild.
Fen raft spiders thrive in the wetlands of England and can use their hairy legs to ‘swim’ across the surface of water.