07 January 2015

When the containers arrived it was all hands on deck to get them out safely. It’s a shame we couldn’t pack in some of the tropical weather too, as the items were being unloaded in freezing temperatures and pouring rain!

These man-made artefacts will help shape the Islands journey and will be key in setting the scene. The items being carefully unloaded from the shipping containers included long boats, tuk-tuks, canoes, stalls, ploughs, mopeds and tools. All authentic items and all with an interesting backstory.

Dr Maggie Esson and Kim Halliday help unload the artefacts.

Dr Maggie Esson, our education programmes manager, explains: 

This was a home delivery unlike any other. It was a very special shopping list indeed – a real treasure trove of unusual bits and pieces all the way from South East Asia. 

All of these amazing artefacts are destined for our new zone, Islands, which is about transporting people to another place – making them feel like, for a few hours at least, they’ve stepped into South East Asia and are exploring that most incredible part of the planet.

The longboat being loaded in Indonesia.

We’re making it as authentic as we possibly can and that’s why we’ve done our shopping in places like Indonesia. As well as the animals, the landscaping and the architecture, it’s all of these details that will bring the place alive and create a truly authentic snapshot of the region. 

The genuine old boats, tools, market stalls, fabrics and tuk-tuks will help us to tell the stories of what happens on these remarkable islands, including our vital field conservation work.

Many of these items have a fascinating back-story. The boats, for example, used to belong to fishermen from Java in Indonesia. They’d use the boats daily, in good weather, fishing for skipjack, yellow fin tuna, snapper, king mackerel and sardines.

With the money they’ve received for the boats they’ve now been able to buy better replacements to help improve the size of their catch and help them earn a better wage.

Other items included three, three-tonne boats, which were purchased directly from families in South East Asia.  

We have been working with an experienced supplier – Myles Podmore of Tripod Homes Ltd – to gather these items. He told us:

This was one of the highlights of 2014 for us, when Chester Zoo appointed Tripod Home to source authentic everyday items from South East Asia; we knew then that we were in for an exciting few months! 

I visited Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, and met lots of new people and made lots of unusual requests. Sometimes the questions caused amusement, sometimes people thought I was just plain crazy, when I asked; ‘how much would you sell me your bike for?’ and ‘would you be prepared to sell me that sign from the front of your shop?’ 

It was important for Chester Zoo to have authentic used items to theme the Islands project with and so this is exactly what we went looking for.

Read more Islands news here

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