Our Wildlife Connections project officer, Manon Keir, organised the two-day event with the help of conservation partners, volunteers and Chester Zoo staff. Here she tells us how it went:
“Months of planning, miles of bunting, hundreds of plant pots and dozens of meetings later the 16 September finally arrived and I couldn’t have been more excited! It was finally here, everything was in place and now all we needed was for everyone to join us at our Wildlife Connections festival to celebrate UK wildlife!
“When we first started planning the Wildlife Connections festival we wanted to make it a real celebration of how wonderful the species around us are, but also highlight the threats facing them that could mean future generations don’t get the chance to enjoy seeing them. The key things that we wanted to make sure we achieved were that everyone that came along found out at least one thing they could do to help local wildlife, learn why they need to help and that everyone had loads of fun!
“We were really pleased to be able to work with local community groups and creative companies to come up with fantastic unique colourful attractions that caught everyone’s eye. A real effort was made to make the festival as green as possible, including having a solar powered cinema and stage and using mostly recycled or reused materials for the games and other attractions. It really was such a team effort, from all the volunteers and staff that helped collect all the materials to make decorations and games to the carpark team who made sure everyone found their way down to the nature reserve to get involved with all the fun.
“Having a queue of eager school children outside the gate at 9:50am on the Friday was the icing on the cake. I was so pleased that they had come along and would get to enjoy all the activities we’d arranged. We had a real mixture of groups that day and a really good turn–out despite the quite gusty conditions. With the live band playing, colourful flags fluttering, laughing and chatting the atmosphere was great and it only got better on the Saturday when the sun joined in too.
“The volunteers and staff got very excited about dressing up as butterflies with giant wings with help from Emily at Cabasa Carnival Arts. Katrice the storyteller had a full house down in the grass amphitheatre and the drone was flying overhead capturing images of all the festivities.
“The discoveries on the Safari Walks were quite surprising with quite a few unexpected critters found living in the nature reserve’s pond. The species records map grew and quickly filled up with all the wildlife that was spotted in our nature reserve and the pledge forest grew as more and more people pledged to help their local wildlife.
“Hundreds of bird feeders, nest material balls, bug hotels and seed bombs were created and made their way home to help everyone take that first step to making a safe space for wildlife.
“Sol Cinema was a great hit near the zoo entrance, with dozens of people settling in for a few minutes with some popcorn to watch environmental films. The centrepiece of the bumblebee garden bloomed with colourful bees and flowers decorated beautifully by zoo visitors. Girl Guides, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and wildlife recorders entertained and educated everyone about all the great work they do to help local wildlife in communities. Games were made and played with help from Barclays coders, bees were pinned on flowers, toads thrown on lily-pads and prizes won in games made by our volunteers.
“It really was a great event, both days were filled with fun but more importantly I think the activities everyone got involved with really helped share the message that everyone has a role to play in conservation and that’s it’s more important than ever that everyone does their bit.”
Wildlife Connections is all about helping to reverse the declining UK wildlife populations by helping to open up the landscape to wildlife with wildlife corridors and making new areas of good habitat in gardens and community spaces that will help the wildlife around us thrive.
If you missed out on the festival don’t worry, you can still get involved and find out how you can help make safe spaces for local wildlife HERE.