Thursday, 27 December 2012

Review of the year part 1 - Bristol 2012

We are nearly at the end of 2012 so we will finish off the year with some of the new highlights from the last twelve months, starting with Bristol Zoo in this post and finishing off with some round the world news next week

Newborn stingray
Babies have been born to two new stingrays which arrived at Bristol Zoo last summer.

Nine ocellated freshwater stingray pups were born last week after two new females were introduced to the Zoo’s male stingray last year.

The new females, sisters named Catalina & Genevieve, arrived at Bristol Zoo from

Weston Seaquarium and have wasted little time in breeding. Catalina has produced six pups and three pups are from Genevieve.

The babies, six females and three males, are around just 12cm (4.7 inches) long and will eventually grow to the size of a car tyre. They have now been moved into a separate, off-show tank to keep them safe from larger predators in the display tank. In the coming months they will be re-homed, once they are bigger and stronger.

Jonny Rudd, assistant curator of the aquarium at Bristol Zoo, said: “I’m really pleased that the new pairings of our stingrays has led to the birth of these pups. Our male, called Gamma, is still relatively young and smaller than the females but that obviously hasn’t had any adverse effects.”


Baby Linne's Two-toed Sloth
A young sloth born at Bristol Zoo Gardens has finally gone on show after 10 months intensive hand-rearing by keepers.

Sid the sloth was born in the Zoo’s nocturnal house, Twilight World, last April, weighing just 500g (1.1lbs). Her mother, Light Cap, was taken ill shortly after giving birth and underwent a spell in the Zoo’s veterinary hospital which prevented her from caring for her baby.

Despite making a full recovery, Light Cap was no longer producing enough milk to feed her baby and the youngster, who was named Sid after the sloth in the popular Ice Age movie, had to be cared for round the clock by a team of dedicated keepers.

In the first few months of her life, Sid needed feeding every three hours, including through the night. She was fed a combination of puppy milk formula and goat’s milk. She also had checks by the zoo vet on an almost daily basis to make sure she was developing well.

The hard work has paid off and now, after almost a year, Sid has re-joined her mother on show in the Zoo’s nocturnal house, Twilight World. She has developed into a strong, healthy and inquisitive youngster, with a particular penchant for green beans.


Devils-Bit Scabious
Plant experts from Bristol Zoo Gardens and Somerset Wildlife Trust visited a Somerset primary school this week as part of combined effort to reintroduce extinct plants on the Somerset Levels.

Children from Catcott Primary School received a gardening lesson from Bristol Zoo’s Horticulture Manger, Mike Adams, and Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Brue Valley Development Officer, Mark Steer on Friday (March 9 2012).

As well as playing pollination-themed games, pupils at the school were shown how to plant and nurture seeds from a rare West Country plant species called Devil's-bit scabious - an attractive perennial herb with flowers that provide an important source of nectar for butterflies, bees and hoverflies.

Later in the summer, the children will transfer the young plants to Shapwick Moor Nature Reserve, on the Somerset Levels, as part of The Flowering for Life Partnership.

With help from the Somerset Rare Plants Group, Natural England and the Hawk and Owl Trust, the Flowering for Life Partnership aims to reintroduce rare plants to the fields of Catcott nature reserve and neighbouring Shapwick Moor, increasing the number of plants for pollinator insects such as bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies.

Mike Adams, of Bristol Zoo, said: “It’s great that Catcott Primary School is keen to get involved in this fantastic project to help increase biodiversity in the fields on their doorstep. We hope to inspire these children to become actively involved in the future protection of these valuable sites.”

Mark Steer, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Brue Valley Development Officer, added: “Getting hands-on is a great way to learn about wildlife and habitats. We hope that growing the plants will help the children understand more about how important our bee and insect pollinators are and that we can all help create a healthy natural environment.”

In addition to the Devil's-bit scabious, the partnership will also see the reintroduction of the rare greater water parsnip, which has been classified as ‘nationally scarce’ and is listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). Just 50 individual greater water parsnip plants are left on the Somerset Levels. It has declined massively across southern Britain due to the loss of wetland habitats and intensive land management practices.

Bristol Zoo’s expert gardeners are currently growing the greater water parsnip from seed in their nurseries. The young plants will then be transferred to Inaura School, also in Somerset, whose pupils will grow them on and plant them out at the two nature reserves.

Animatronic Baryonyx
They ruled the Earth for millions of years and now dinosaurs are making a comeback at Bristol Zoo Gardens this summer.

For three months, 12 huge and incredibly life-like animatronic dinosaurs will be placed around the Zoo. The new residents will include some of the world’s most popular dinosaur species, such as the tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops and the long-necked brachiosaurus, all of which willbe brought to life using mechanical technology and animatronics.

The exhibition, called DinoZoo, will be open every day from Friday, May 25 until Sunday September 2 2012, and is free with Zoo admission. It will give visitors thechance to get up-close to amazing, moving, roaring, hissing, growling and even water-spraying creatures they’ve only read about in books or seen in films.

Over the past two weeks Bristol Zoo has been giving clues as to the nature of its summer spectacle via its Facebook and Twitter pages, and even placed a car in the centre of Bristol, seemingly crushed by what appears to be a huge creature, and surrounded by T-rex footprints.

Dr Bryan Carroll director of Bristol Zoo, said: “We are always looking for new and exciting ways to entertain, inspire and educate our guests, and this year is no exception. DinoZoo is sure to be a fantastically popular new attraction that will take our guests on a journey that started over 200 million years ago.


White-Clawed Crayfish
A Bristol-based project designed to secure the long-term survival of native crayfish in the UK has been short-listed for a prestigious national award.

Selected from nearly 100 applicants, the Conservation of White-clawed Crayfish project run by Bristol Zoo Gardens, the Environment Agency and the Avon Wildlife Trust, will now compete against four other organisations from across the country at the 2012 Biffa Awards.

The awards recognise the people who transform their communities and improve the environment through Biffa Award funded projects. The Conservation of White-clawed Crayfish project is nominated in the Rebuilding Biodiversity category, and could receive a £2,000 prize.

The project received £50,000 in funding from Biffa Award to help secure the survival of the white-clawed crayfish in the UK as well as educating people about the endangered species and encourage them to play their part in the fight to save this valuable species. The project combines practical conservation work with education works, based at Bristol Zoo and Gardens.

The Biffa Awards 2012 will be held on September 27 at the Historic Dockyard Chatham, Kent, where all the finalists will be invited to attend a day of celebrating the enthusiasm and commitment of those who dedicate their lives to making a real difference to their community and the environment.


Invasive fish exhibit
The wildlife Minister, Richard Benyon, visited Bristol Zoo today (Monday, June 25) to officially open a new display highlighting the threats of invasive species to UK waterways.

The new feature includes three tanks in the Zoo’s aquarium, which are home to non-native species that have found their way into British waterways, such as killer shrimp, zebra mussels, marsh frogs as well as top-mouth gudgeon, pumpkinseed and sunbleak fish.

The tanks also houses invasive plant species such as skunk-cabbage, floating pennywort and New Zealand pygmy weed.

Invasive aquatic plants can damage native wildlife that lives in UK ponds and waterways. The new display is part of Bristol Zoo’s involvement in the Defra-led ‘Check, clean, dry’ and ‘Be Plant Wise’ campaigns - which encourage responsible behaviour to prevent the entry and spread of invasive non-native species, for example through cleaning of boat hulls and the appropriate disposal of pond plants.

Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon, said: “This exciting new exhibit at Bristol Zoo will help to raise awareness and understanding of the serious risks that invasive, non-native species pose to our waterways across the UK.

“It highlights how we can work together to protect native species, and ensure our rivers can remain a safe and enjoyable place to visit.”

Bristol Zoo’s UK Conservation Manager, Jen Nightingale, added: “This is the first display of its kind in the UK and a fantastic opportunity to for zoo visitors to experience some of the worst plant and animal invaders that are destroying our British species. We are delighted that Richard Benyon is visiting Bristol Zoo to officially open this new exhibit.”

Caryopteris stand at Hampton Court Flower Show
Gardeners at Bristol Zoo have been awarded a gold medal at the prestigious Hampton Court Palace Flower Show this week.

The Zoo’s team of green-fingered plant experts are displaying their collection of Caryopteris, more commonly known as ‘bluebeard’, at the biggest plant show in the world.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is an official national collection holder of these plants and is showing a variety of the plants in an Oriental themed display in the Plant Heritage tent, which this year has the theme of worldwide conservation. The display includes rare species such as Caryopteris mongolica as well as rare and unusual garden varieties.

Mike Adams, horticulture manager at Bristol Zoo, said: “We are thrilled to have won a gold medal, it is a fantastic achievement and a great honour to be exhibiting alongside some other brilliant garden designers and collection holders at this prestigious flower show.

“Exhibiting Caryopteris is challenging because the plants aren’t yet in flower so a great deal of care was taken on the construction of the red and black backdrop, screens and ornaments. These included red sandstone, a brass bowl with floating flowers, bamboo complete with a birds nest and pieces of folded paper.”

Judges were impressed with the design of the display as well as the care and precision to the detail, and commented that there was the right amount of information for visitors. The display was marked as ‘excellent’ in the categories of ‘plants’, ‘information and interpretation’, ‘overall impression’ and ‘scale of endeavor’.

Mike added: “Bristol Zoo is well known for its animal collection, but perhaps less so for its wonderful botanical gardens and amazing plant heritage, so being invited to exhibit at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is a great opportunity to give visitors a taste of the inspiring gardens Bristol Zoo has to offer.”

This is the second time the Zoo’s gardens team has been invited to the show after first exhibiting in 2010, winning bronze medal for its display of ginger lilies (Hedychium).

Caryopterisis an Asian shrub first brought into the UK by plant huntersin the 19th century. Due to human activities many of China’s endemic plants are now under threat and in danger of becoming extinct.

Horticulture experts from Bristol Zoo are working in partnership with Plant Heritage to conserve the species and varieties of Caryopteris for the future.

Caryopterisare late-flowering, with aromatic leaves and flowers,and provide a rich nectar source for insects and bees.Their flowers range from the typically blue to the less common pink, white and yellow. Growing Caryopteris in your garden can help to conserve the UK’s native bee populations by providing a late source of nectar.

Adult Fen Raft Spider
Around 200 rare baby spiders have been ‘fostered’ by keepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens in an effort to protect one of the UK’s most endangered species of arachnids.

Hundreds of tiny fen raft spiderlings (Dolomedes plantarius) have been collected from fenland areas around the UK and taken in by various collections– including Bristol Zoo - to be reared and released in September.

The conservation breeding project aims to save the species, which is one of Europe's largest but least common spiders, and is only found in three sites in Britain – Norfolk, East Sussexand South Wales.

The spiders are so rare that they are protected by law in the UK and have been classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The three-week old spiderlings, which are just a few millimetres in size, have been transferred into 200 individual test tubes and are now each receiving intensive care by experts in Bristol Zoo’s Bug World - a process that takes hours every day.

Carmen Solan, invertebrate keeper at Bristol Zoo said: “She added: “Caring for 200 hungry young spiders is a big job. We individually feed tiny fruit flies to each spiderling; it is a very delicate process but one that we are pleased and proud to be a part of.”

Mark Bushell, Assistant Curator of Invertebrates at the zoo, added: “These spiders are very vulnerable to extinction because they are restricted to just three sites so we are taking great care to rear as many of these youngsters as possible in order to increase the population of this valuable species. The aim is to give these little spiders the best possible start in life.”

In September the young spiders will be released into the wild fenland habitats where they were found, to begin their adult lives. These semi-aquatic spiders can grow to approximately 8cm in leg span and live for around three years.

Adult Socorro Dove
One of the rarest birds in the world has been bred by keepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

A Socorro dove chick has hatched and is thriving in the zoo, marking a major success for the species which is extinct in the wild. It is the first time Socorro doves have successfully bred at Bristol Zoo in five years. The chick was one of two that hatched but sadly one of them died at a young age.

The last recorded sighting of a Socorro dove in the wild was in 1972. Now there are around just 100 held in captivity in zoos around the world – including 25 birds in six UK zoos. Coordinated conservation breeding of the birds by organisations such as Bristol Zoo has prevented the total extinction of the species.

Bristol Zoo’s Curator of birds, Nigel Simpson, said: “Sadly these birds now only exist in captivity, so to have this chick hatch and survive 40 years after they were last seen in the wild is a great achievement.”

The chick at Bristol Zoo has been raised by foster birds - a pair of European turtle doves - which have a strong track record of raising healthy chicks. The precious Socorro dove egg was placed in the turtle doves’ nest as the adult Socorro doves have a poor history of incubating eggs.


Mediterranean Chameleon
Four live chameleons seized from a ship’s crew at Cardiff docks by Border Force officers are now being cared for by reptile specialists at Bristol Zoo.

The chameleons were found on Sunday 23 September upon a Turkish-registered ship. The master of the vessel believed that the lizards had been obtained in Casablanca and were being kept on a tree branch placed in the shower room, while another was being kept in a crew member’s overalls pocket, which was zipped shut and stored in a locker.

Upon arrival the chameleons were immediately put into quarantine and closely monitored. Tim Skelton, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians says, ‘They were dehydrated when they arrived and needed expert care. We check on them several times a day to ensure they’re feeding and drinking well and we’re very pleased with their progress.’

[update: one of these is now on show in the Reptile House]

 It is with great sadness that Bristol Zoo Gardens announces that Kamal, our male Asiatic lion, has died.

Kamal, at 18 years of age, was extremely old for a lion. Consequently he suffered from arthritis and age-related deterioration of his vision. Zoo vets also suspected that he may have had a tumour. He had been receiving constant care and treatment from the keepers and zoo vet team who had been closely monitoring his condition. However, due to the recent deterioration of his health, the decision was made for him to be euthanased on 21 November.

Kamal was born at Helsinki Zoo, Finland, in 1994 and was hand reared by keepers. He arrived at Bristol Zoo in February 2008, where he has lived since. Kamal sired two cubs with our lioness, Shiva, in December 2010. They have since grown up and moved to other European zoos as part of a managed conservation breeding programme. Kamal was greatly loved here at the zoo and had a gentle and tolerant temperamen


One of the gorilla sculptures
Bristol Zoo Gardens has received two top awards from the British zoo community at a prestigious awards ceremony.

The Zoo has won ‘best marketing project and ‘best education project’ in the annual British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) awards. The marketing project award has been given for the incredibly successful Wow! Gorillas campaign, which ran in 2011 as part of the promotions for its 175th anniversary. The education project award was given for the Zoo’s Wow! Gorilla education outreach programme, which aimed to educate children on gorilla conservation. Commendations were also awarded to Bristol Zoo in four categories – best research project for investigations into body weight of wild and captive lemurs; best education project for its WOW! Gorillas summer campaign; best PR project also for Wow! Gorillas, and best use of plants in a landscape feature or display for The Stream Garden.

(images from Bristol Zoo website, wikipedia)

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