"Extinct" giant spider found 25 years on

Conservationist who thought that a giant spider had become extinct in the UK were surprised to find one at an Army training centre after the species was last spotted 25 years ago.

They said that the find is exciting although they were not surprised as to the location of the find as these type of Army bases are unaffected by development and farming so make great homes for the spiders.

The large creature, a Great Fox-Spider, is on the “critically endangered” list and had not been spotted since 1993.

It took spider enthusiast, Mike Waite, who is employed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, more than 2 years of searching MoD land with a torch to discover the ground-dwelling nocturnal arachnid.

His painstaking search finally revealed several males and one female Great Fox-Spider which measures 55mm including its spiny, hairy legs.

The overly excited naturalist said “I am naturally over-the-moon to have finally proved the continued existence of the Great Fox-Spider in the UK.

Although I’ve always held a latent interest in spiders, as a bona-fide arachnologist, I am still a relative newbie, so am doubly pleased to have made this important contribution to our scientific knowledge.”

He plans to continue his study over the winter months looking for burrows and finding out the size of the population. Great Fox-Spiders have excellent eyesight with wrap-around vision provided by eight black eyes on its head, or cephalothorax.

Two large eyes glint from the top of the head; two large eyes stare out the front; and four smaller eyes form a row just above the spider’s mouth. Rich Lowey, Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s Head of Technical Services, said: “Many people are unaware of the size and diversity of the Defence estate and its tremendous wildlife richness.  It has generally been protected from agricultural intensification and urban development, so it now provides a vital sanctuary for many of the country’s most rare and endangered species and habitats.

We are proud to hear that the Great Fox-Spider has survived because of MOD’s commitment and enthusiasm to have positive and active conservation management on the Estate and close integrated working with ARC, Surrey Wildlife Trust and MOD Conservation Groups.”

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