THE 'rare depressed river mussel' is one of the weird and wonderful creatures getting a helping hand from a new squad of wet and wild conservationists in Oxford.

The team from Saving Oxford's Wetland Wildlife are also hoping to help increase the number of otters around the city and boost populations of the endangered creeping marshwort.

Over the next three years the squelching squad will be digging and excavating new ponds across Oxford and creating lush swampy habitats for water-loving animals and plants.

The team are also going to be giving expert advice to the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme on how to turn the 5km canal into a paradise for pond life.

The boggy bunch are being assembled by national charity the Freshwater Habitats Trust – which just happens to be based in Headington.

The aim is to get local people more directly involved in conserving the rare and varied freshwater wildlife in and around Oxford’s wetlands.

Project officer Francesca Dunn said "Oxford is a critical area for freshwater biodiversity and home to many rare plant and animal species such as creeping marshwort, a wetland plant which is found nowhere else in the country.

"Sadly, over the last 20 years many of Oxford’s key species have either declined significantly or have already been lost.

"Saving Oxfords Wetland Wildlife will create and manage ponds and wetlands at key sites across Oxford.

"Together we will help reverse species declines and restore the exceptional freshwater biodiversity of the Oxford area."

The project is being funded by Thames Water and the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment with extra cash from Grundon Waste Management through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Oxford residents, schools and community groups can start getting involved in the spring.

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