Ponds, ditches, lakes, rivers and streams are important wildlife habitats in the UK – not least because some of the country's most endangered animals rely on them for their survival.
One such animal is the great crested newt. One of three newt species in the UK, it can be distinguished from its relatives – the smooth (or common) newt and the palmate newt – by its rough, warty skin. Great crested newts are also much larger and darker in colour – and the males have a distinctive, dragon-like crest along their backs, giving them their name.
All three species of newt are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but the great crested newt is the rarest and most at risk. They have suffered a major decline in the last century and despite legal protection, their numbers continue to fall.
A shortage of suitable breeding and resting places, and deterioration of existing habitats, is a major cause for this decline. 50 per cent of the UK's ponds were lost during the 20th century, and, of those that remain, 80 per cent are in a poor state.