THE Bolton Wildlife Project is about to embark on its annual pond survey, scheduled to start at the end of March.

The aim is to compile an accurate record of the area's ponds and surveyors are needed to help with the task.

About half the natural ponds in the borough have been lost over the last 40 years, mainly through housing development and land reclamation for agriculture.

Rhona Jardine of the Wildlife Project explained: "The spread of town and cities has meant that ponds are lost. Changes in farming methods have also contributed to the loss of ponds."

Her colleague Trish McKenna said: "If we have some sort of data, it helps us to be able to monitor what is happening locally. The area is already good for great crested newts, which are a protected species. We hope that the survey will encourage local people to look after their ponds."

? The organisers hope that the surveys will be completed this year. Bolton borough has over 600 ponds and only seventy are still to be surveyed. Anyone who wants to help to survey the ponds should phone either Rhona or Trish, project co-ordinators, on 01204 361847.

Volunteers should be interested in the environment, physically fit, with plenty of free time, and ideally should have their own transport. A knowledge of plants or amphibians would be useful but not essential, as training will be provided. Some expenses will be paid to surveyors.

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