29 Dec 2016

We hosted our biggest festival celebrating precious UK wildlife. The event took place over three days and included nature activities, live music, outdoor theatre and plenty of family fun took place at the zoo.

We want to put the spotlight on local wildlife and raise awareness of how people can help make a difference in protecting UK species. Our experts say that the UK’s wildlife has undergone a rapid decline over the last 15 years. Recent surveys indicate the hedgehog population in Britain has decreased by 50% in rural areas since 2002, while one in five wildflowers are faced with extinction and 72% of British butterfly species are under serious threat. UK habitat has also changed dramatically – much of Britain was once swathed in woodland but it now covers just 12% of the land.

Wildlife Connections Project Officer, Manon Kier, tells us more about the festival below:

Our second Wildlife Connections Festival was set to be bigger and buzzier than last time so I was just as excited to invite everyone to join us to celebrate our wonderful wildlife in style as I was last year! This year we extended the festival from two to three days so that we could share the conservation messages, fun and games with as many people as possible.  

This time round we wanted everyone to get something a bit different from the event so we included lots of new things for everyone to try out. For the first time, we invited local businesses and practitioners to join us in our Sustainability Centre to promote their products and share how we can all make eco-friendly choices every day.

The Chill-out Zone was new too, giving everyone a quiet little corner to take time to relax and unwind. Of course we kept the popular activities like bug hunts, storytelling and drone demos in the nature reserve. We had six great local musicians play on our stage and had lovely fluttering giant butterflies brightening up the field throughout. We were joined by two theatre companies, Yan Tan Tethera and Peoplescapes Theatre who performed in our amphitheatre.

One of the highlights for me was seeing the colourful Queen Bee leading the Pollinator Parade around the festival on Saturday afternoon after everyone had helped her get dressed all day. I also loved seeing children wandering about the hedgehog maze, competing in our Bee Bonanza game and helping to create gorgeous bee and butterfly willow sculptures that will take pride of place in the zoo gardens.

Everyone seemed to have a great time and my hope is that everyone can take the same energy home to make safe spaces for our most precious local wildlife.

We also ran a sleepover at the zoo for the first time, to bring families even closer to the incredible local wildlife within the zoo grounds. 

Safari Ranger, Annabella Bashforth, tells us more about the evening:

The magical evening started with a nice hot meal in Bembe at the main entrance of the zoo. We then went on an evening walk to spot our native wildlife, from bats using our bat detectors to moths and a few small paw prints in our hedgehog tunnels. We warmed up with a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie whilst snuggling down to a fabulous storytelling session by Yan Tan Tethera who were brilliant! At the end of the night, we all wandered down a colourful lit path back to our snug tents on the campsite.

After a night’s sleep in the outdoors, a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea (and for some, an early morning yoga session), we were all set for a morning of wildlife spotting. People took part in bug hunts, pond dipping and bird watching. These went down a treat with people before packing up and heading home.

Thanks to all our volunteers, partners and visitors for joining us over the three days. Together we can all help UK wildlife to thrive. See what actions you can take to help local species, here >