To mark the halfway point of COP26, we’re taking a look at what’s happened at the conference so far and what promising actions may be coming up…

A NEW BBC wildlife series, narrated by Sir David Attenborough and Prince William features our work promoting sustainable palm oil.

An endangered frog from South America, with a rather unfortunate nickname, has gone on display at the zoo for the first time!

UK wildlife is in trouble. 56% of UK species are in decline. In the UK we have lost 97% of the wildflower meadows we had in the 1930s and hedgehog numbers have fallen from 30 million in 1950 to just 1 million now. 

There are hundreds of UK species that need our help so we’ve created this guide to help learners explore native species, their threats and ways that you can help to make small changes to your garden that will help UK wildlife. 

Follow our step by step guide to get your learners involved in our Wildlife Connections campaign. We’ve got over 30 different resources to support learning about UK native species and to inspire your learners to take actions to help local biodiversity.

We worked with 146 people from 53 families and together took over 620 positive actions to support biodiversity at school and in the families own green spaces.

Our Wildlife Connections Campaign is all about bringing people together to create safe spaces for UK wildlife. By creating connections from one wildlife-friendly space to the next we can create wildlife highways through our neighbourhoods and protect the precious wildlife that we love.

Between October 2019 and February 2020 we set up Family Wildlife Clubs at five schools local to Chester Zoo, bringing together families to improve their school grounds and own green spaces for wildlife. Through this project we engaged new audiences within our local communities, providing opportunities for them to develop the skills and knowledge to be able to take action for UK wildlife and play their part in improving biodiversity.

The project was funded by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) Nature Connects Grant which is awarded to international projects that aim to bring families together to experience their natural environment and take action for wildlife.

At each school site we planted mini wild flower meadows, planted trees, built giant bug hotels and made their school grounds a better place for people to enjoy. The families also made animal habitats to take home to make their green spaces better for wildlife, including making mini ponds, mini bug hotels, bat boxes and bird boxes.

By taking these actions to make more and better connected wildlife friendly spaces we can help to combat the threats faced by UK Wildlife, including the loss of suitable habitats and loss of connectivity between habitats. At each school we did basic wildlife surveys before taking action and will support the schools to monitor changes over the coming years and to promote biodiversity on their school grounds and surrounding communities.

The Family Wildlife Clubs brought intergenerational groups together to gain the skills and knowledge to make positive changes for local wildlife. As well as supporting skill and knowledge development, the experience also benefitted the participants personally and in their family relationships.

“I enjoyed spending time outdoors with my son and the group”.

– parent from Sandy Croft School

The knowledge and skills gained through the session encouraged people to take action in their own green spaces too.

“Using knowledge of different habitats we have implemented some of the practical habitats in our gardens.”

– parent from Liscard Primary School

Autumn is a brilliant time of year for spotting garden wildlife. Why not have a go at your very own Autumnwatch and let us know what you’ve seen. We want to know about anything you’ve seen – common and unusual, even if you’re not sure exactly what it is you can send us a photo and we’ll find out for you.

As part of the programme, students were trained as visitor engagement volunteers and gave their time on Saturdays and Sundays to help engage with our zoo visitors and become part of the Chester Zoo family.

During the process, students spent time with some of our volunteers and various staff members from Discovery and Learning, Marketing and Fundraising to understand what it takes to put together an effective public campaign to engage audiences in conservation.

Over 12 weeks the students found out about our core campaigns about Illegal Wildlife Trade, Sustainable Palm Oil and Wildlife Connections.  They also gained multimedia skills like animation and film making as well as learning about social media and marketing.

As part of gaining their Duke of Edinburgh award they were asked to use all this knowledge to create their own campaign materials. They had free choice as to how they went about this – and the results are amazing!

Some students worked in groups and others as individuals – but each found interesting ways of sharing their conservation messages through film, dance, animation and song.

The 12 weeks culminated with a celebration event at our newly refurbished Oakfield House where everyone got an opportunity to showcase their projects to friends, family and Chester Zoo staff.

 

Each participant was presented with their certificate by Chester Zoo’s Science Director, Dr Simon Dowell.

We are continuing our collaboration with Upton High School to offer the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme at Chester Zoo in 2019. ​

Our Nature Reserve is already home to a wide range of incredible local and national wildlife, and with our recent expansion we hope to see even more incredible species visit the site.  The Nature Reserve has also provided a boost to British wildflowers, as they’re important to healthy habitats but sadly, one-in-five of Britain’s wildflowers is threatened with extinction.

Trevor Dines is also a Botanical Specialist at Plantlife; below he tells us why wildflower meadows are so important:

HERE ARE SOME OF OUR HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NATURE RESERVE SINCE WE EXPANDED IT IN MAY

So far in the coronation meadow we’ve found more than 70 types of native plant!

Black tailed skimmer dragonflies have also appeared for the first time at the zoo near one of our new ponds!

The kingfisher has been seen regularly fishing for sticklebacks from our new viewing hide.

Kingfisher

This spring we’ve planted more than 400 more native shrubs and trees including the rare wild service tree and alder-buckthorn for brimstone butterfly caterpillars.

We’ve also spotted a family of foxes playing, badgers foraging and stoats skulking through the hedgerows!

Red fox caught on camera trap

The bare patches in the new meadow are perfect for the green-tiger beetle too – which is another first for the Nature Reserve!

These awards celebrate those making outstanding contributions within the BIAZA community and range across categories, including conservation breeding, animal wellbeing, conservation, education, horticulture, PR, marketing, digital and events, research and sustainability.

Chester Zoo was awarded a total of THREE gold awards this year across a range of specialisms. Here’s an overview of the projects that picked up awards:

Golden mantella in Madagascan forest

Education Gold Award: Wildlife Champions

Species in the UK are under threat and increasing pressures on the natural world is pushing the wildlife that lives in our communities to the brink of extinction.  Knowledge and appreciation of the species that share our living space is decreasing rapidly, which puts the future of wildlife at ever-greater jeopardy.

To combat this challenge we have developed a community engagement project called Wildlife Connections.  Through this campaign, we have ran a training course for community group leaders to provide them with knowledge, skills and inspiration to improve their area of green space for native species and ideas for how to get their group members or local community involved in conservation!  Hannah Brooks, Community Engagement Manager says:

“I’m incredibly proud that this project has won a BIAZA Gold Award!  It’s fantastic that the Wildlife Champions, who are amazing individuals doing great things within their local community have been recognised for the work that they’re doing. This has all been made possible thanks to the training and support that we provided. I’d also like to say a really big thank you to Heritage Lottery Fund who supported this project.”