Chester Zoo https://www.chesterzoo.org Fri, 08 Jan 2021 11:43:48 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 Exploring Monsoon Forest https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/exploring-monsoon-forest/ Fri, 08 Jan 2021 11:42:36 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22927 A great place to take your students to explore a South East Asian forest habitat in the middle of Chester …

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A great place to take your students to explore a South East Asian forest habitat in the middle of Chester Zoo!  With free flying birds, primates, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and amazing plants, there’s so much to see and learn about.

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Fundraising ‘superstars’ help to save us from extinction! https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/fundraising-superstars/ Tue, 22 Dec 2020 15:54:07 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=23026 After a rollercoaster of a year, we take a look back at some of our incredible fundraising superstars, who helped …

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After a rollercoaster of a year, we take a look back at some of our incredible fundraising superstars, who helped to save their favourite charity zoo…

 

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Stories to save species in Rodrigues https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/stories-to-save-species-in-rodrigues/ Tue, 22 Dec 2020 10:22:30 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=20044 We’ve been working with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) to prevent the extinction of endemic species on Mauritius and Rodrigues …

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We’ve been working with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) to prevent the extinction of endemic species on Mauritius and Rodrigues for many years. An important part of this work is supporting the development of education programmes that encourage people to value and protect the species we’re working together to save.

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Tragedy to Triumph: Reimagining Exhibitions in Monsoon Forest https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/tragedy-to-triumph-reimagining-exhibitions-in-monsoon-forest/ Tue, 15 Dec 2020 11:18:36 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22320 In 2015, Islands opened to the public. A £40 million project, 60,000 square meters, orangutans, tigers, crocodiles and countless unique …

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In 2015, Islands opened to the public. A £40 million project, 60,000 square meters, orangutans, tigers, crocodiles and countless unique plants, it was designed to be our first geographically themed immersive environment, taking visitors on a journey across six South East Asian islands.

With Monsoon Forest at the heart, the jewel in the crown, and also the UK’s largest indoor zoo habitat, this immersive habitat was an exercise in what progressive zoos should strive for.

But at the end of 2018, Monsoon Forest fell victim to a fire, causing a lot of damage to this amazing exhibition. What followed has been to a two-year long project to re-imagine the space, re-telling the stories that first captivated our visitors’ imaginations.

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The Plant Champion https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/the-plant-champion/ Tue, 15 Dec 2020 10:13:04 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22795 Plant expert and Chester Zoo partner Joshua Styles hasn’t been slowed by the turbulent year of 2020.

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Plant expert and Chester Zoo partner Joshua Styles hasn’t been slowed by the turbulent year of 2020.

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Discover the science we do at the zoo https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/discover-the-science-we-do-at-the-zoo/ Thu, 10 Dec 2020 10:47:52 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22718 Chester Zoo uses science in many countries around the world to conserve species in their natural habitats, this is known …

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Chester Zoo uses science in many countries around the world to conserve species in their natural habitats, this is known as in-situ conservation and at the same time we work here at the zoo and this is known as ex-situ conservation. By combining in-situ and ex-situ techniques we work towards our ultimate goal of preventing extinction.

There are many scientific studies that can help us better understand the animals in our care here at the zoo and those we are trying to conserve in the field, four of these studies are researching environmental conditions, animal behaviour, hormones and genetics.

We’ve put together this guide to using some of our science learning resources for you to use with your class.

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THE BIRDSONG CONUNDRUM https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/the-birdsong-conundrum/ Wed, 09 Dec 2020 14:19:43 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22913 Conservation Scholar, Becky Lewis (University of Manchester), published the first paper of her PhD, exploring the importance of avian vocalizations …

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Conservation Scholar, Becky Lewis (University of Manchester), published the first paper of her PhD, exploring the importance of avian vocalizations for conservation.

With 13% of global bird species classified as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), conservation NGO’s around the world, including Chester Zoo, seek to act to prevent bird extinction. Generating successful conservation outcomes requires a deep understanding of an animal species. As research continues, we begin to learn more about previously cryptic traits or variations that we must account for in actions. This is the beginning of one such story.

Much like how human language varies massively across the world, avian vocalizations not only vary between species, but also between populations of the same species. Slight differences in syllables, pitch or phrases can make all the difference to birdsong.

All birds that are vocal learners – those that learn songs from other individuals – are likely to show some level of vocal dialect over time. Consider how in a human game of ‘Chinese Whispers’, often messages are warped and shifted due to variation along the chain of communication. Birdsong is similar, with variations occurring naturally as songs are passed between generations or social groups. We call this ‘cultural drift’.

As vocalizations have impacts on survival, they are affected by natural selection and evolution. Thus variation between populations is expected to occur naturally when geographically separated over multiple generations due to both cultural drift and natural selection.

While fascinating to study, this variation brings challenges in the context of conservation.

Population-specific vocal dialects can impact on key behaviours for survival and breeding, including territory formation and mate choice. Research studies have shown that male birds defending a territory are far more likely to respond aggressively to dialects similar to their own than those they do not recognize, suggesting they would fail to adequately respond to invasion from an unrecognized foreign intruder. Similarly, females selectively choose mates that they perceive to have a similar dialect. In a small, threatened population, breeding may fail if dialects between the available males and females are too distinct.

The challenge lies in the nature of traditional conservation strategies that involve bringing animals from different locations to form breeding populations in either ex-situ collections, or in-situ as the result of translocations and reintroductions.

When populations of various geographic dialects are mixed, there is significant risk that if birds cannot effectively communicate due to differences in dialect, then these populations may not be successful. Birds of one dialect introduced to a geographic area where a population of a different dialect is already established may not integrate and breed with the existing inhabitants, and could even begin to directly compete – effectively hastening extinction rather than preventing it.

 

SO HOW DO WE SOLVE THESE CHALLENGES?

Becky’s research is now looking at Java sparrows in ex situ breeding programmes to understand the factors affecting bird accents and the steps we could take to reduce these challenges in conservation programmes. There are numerous approaches to take. Firstly, it is important to understand the range of dialects in this species, how vocalizations change during ex situ conservation and what factors contribute to any differences. Then, understanding how birds perceive dialect differences will help us to determine how differences in vocalizations could affect newly formed populations, and to devise strategies to mitigate any problems that could arise.

Stay tuned as we follow and support her research through the next two years.

Becky’s work is funded by NERC, Chester Zoo and the University of Manchester President’s Doctoral Scholarship with additional funding from the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

PUBLICATIONS

Lewis,R., Williams, L., Gilman,T., 2020 The uses and implications of avian vocalizations for conservation planning. Conservation Biology.

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INVESTIGATING SELF-REPORTED PROCONSERVATION BEHAVIOUR IN A GLOBAL STUDY OF ZOO VISITORS https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/investigating-self-reported-proconservation-behaviour-in-a-global-study-of-zoo-visitors/ Wed, 09 Dec 2020 13:47:37 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22906 THE GREATEST THREATS TO ANIMAL SPECIES IN THE WILD – HABITAT LOSS, CLIMATE CHANGE, OVER-HARVESTING AND HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICT – ARE …

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THE GREATEST THREATS TO ANIMAL SPECIES IN THE WILD – HABITAT LOSS, CLIMATE CHANGE, OVER-HARVESTING AND HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICT – ARE EACH AFFECTED BY THE NEEDS AND DESIRES OF PEOPLE.

To address the decline in global biodiversity we must address these causes. To do so is to change modern societies and human behaviour. Achieving such transformation in society is an extraordinarily complex undertaking.

Alongside conservation organisations across the world, we use conservation education to raise awareness of the issues facing wildlife and how people can become involved to help tackle these issues. However, the assumption that increased knowledge will always drive changes in pro-environment behaviours in society is not necessarily so clear-cut.

Our social scientists work to explore the relationships between public knowledge of biodiversity issues, knowledge of conservation actions and the level of participation in those actions. Additionally, we seek to understand how zoos in particular affect these relationships.

Chester Zoo staff probed these links in the largest and most international study of zoo visitors ever conducted, with a sample size of 6,357 from 30 zoos in 19 countries.

Zoo visitors were surveyed with demographic questions, an open-ended question to test their understanding of biodiversity, and another to test their knowledge of conservation actions. We also asked whether the visitor had taken part in any of the conservation actions they had listed within the past month.

We found that several factors influence the knowledge of pro-conservation actions that could be carried out by individual visitors. But crucially, biodiversity understanding was only the sixth most influential factor that was shown to be significant.

Demographic factors, including age and level of education, held more influence. The strongest indicator of the level of knowledge of actions to conserve biodiversity was the region of origin of the visitor.

The outcomes of the study provide an important understanding of what exactly can drive people to become involved in pro-environment activities and how we might make a difference to behavioural changes in society.

Education efforts are extremely valuable, but alone may not be enough to drive the changes in our society that would be ideal to prevent extinction. Zoos and related institutions should use a wider range of approaches to encourage behaviour change, rather than relying solely in education.

PUBLICATIONS

Moss, A., Jensen, E. & Gusset, M. 2016. Probing the link between biodiversity-related knowledge and self-reported pro conservation behaviour in a global survey of zoo visitors, Conservation Letters, 0, 1-8.

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ASSESSING ZOO-DELIVERED LEARNING IN SCHOOLS https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/assessing-zoo-delivered-learning-in-schools/ Wed, 09 Dec 2020 13:22:38 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22899 A SERIES OF FOUR SESSIONS TOOK PLACE IN SCHOOLS OVER THE AUTUMN TERM, EACH ONE LED BY A SAFARI RANGER …

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A SERIES OF FOUR SESSIONS TOOK PLACE IN SCHOOLS OVER THE AUTUMN TERM, EACH ONE LED BY A SAFARI RANGER FROM THE ZOO.

 

The Safari Ranger initiative aims to promote conservation messages in schools. Evaluation is crucial for their continued success

The first three sessions each focused on a different area of conservation, and the final session was a conservation-related craft session. The primary school students who participated were 7-11 years old. Before the series of sessions, each student was surveyed to assess their current understanding of conservation related issues.

The same worksheet was presented to students after the sessions, allowing us to assess the impact of the sessions on their level of conservation understanding. The worksheet included these three questions:

  • What is conservation?
  • Do you think that YOU can help protect endangered species? If yes, how could you help?
  • Can you draw some of the ways that we can help stop animals from becoming extinct? (include labels if you can)

Each question was quantified by use of a numerical scale that increased as the depth and understanding shown in the answers improved. Across the group, the mean score for each of the above questions was significantly higher after the Safari Ranger programme.

We also included four attitude statements on the survey, two of which showed significant changes across the programme. There was a significant decrease in agreement with the statement: ‘It is wrong for animals to be kept in zoos’ and a significant increase in agreement with the statement: ‘Zoos are for saving animals from dying out (‘extinction’).’

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SUPPORTING THE EDUCATIONAL CLAIMS OF ZOOS https://www.chesterzoo.org/news/supporting-the-educational-claims-of-zoos/ Wed, 09 Dec 2020 12:59:00 +0000 https://www.chesterzoo.org/?p=22887 THIS HAS MADE ZOOS VULNERABLE TO CRITICISM, AND FURTHER RESEARCH IS NEEDED. ZOO-BASED RESEARCH OF THIS NATURE IS OFTEN DRIVEN …

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THIS HAS MADE ZOOS VULNERABLE TO CRITICISM, AND FURTHER RESEARCH IS NEEDED. ZOO-BASED RESEARCH OF THIS NATURE IS OFTEN DRIVEN BY AN INSTITUTIONAL NEED TO ASSESS WHETHER EDUCATIONAL GOALS SET BY THE ZOO ARE BEING MET.

 

We believe that broader social research is necessary to assess the true impact of zoo-based education. It is a requirement of many accreditation bodies that zoos provide education to their visitors, either formally for informally.

Many zoos have made strong claims about the educational impacts of their establishments, and to some degree education may be used as a justification for the existence of zoos. However, there is a lack of evidence to show that the claims made by zoos in relation to their educational impact are true. Often, these claims may be based on the quantity of educational provision rather than the known impact of that provision.

Researchers in zoos want to know whether their zoo’s targeted educational programme has helped visitors to meet the learning outcomes set by the zoo. Because of this, research projects are often designed with the expectation of finding an improvement, and there is no method of assessment for a negative result. We believe that this is unhelpful, as it is important to explore negative results in order to improve any flaws in the educational provision available.

Zoos often measure learning against the learning outcomes they have devised. We suggest that this is not the best strategy, as visitors may have their own motivations for visiting that do not align with the outcomes set by the zoo. This approach can also limit the scope of educational research, as the focal point is the zoo learning outcomes and other outcomes may not be accounted for. We believe that research should be expanded so as to uncover unexpected results, as again, this would assist in making any necessary improvements or changes to educational activities.

We also suggest that educational research in zoos should use a mixed methods approach and involve collection of both quantitative and qualitative data, rather than relying on quantitative data alone. This may also help to uncover any unexpected findings.

PUBLICATIONS:

Moss, A. & Esson, M. 2013. The educational claims of zoos: where do we go from here?, Zoo Biology, 32, 13-18.

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