Good zoos are now powerful forces for conservation and some of the world’s most extraordinary species would not be surviving without them! Flamingo Land’s Director of Conservation, Dr Andrew Marshall, has played the lead role in creating a list of the top ten species most reliant on zoos.
The work was carried out on behalf of the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the value of good zoos and aquariums. The top ten list includes species on the very brink of extinction including two that are close to our hearts at Flamingo Land. The Scimitar-horned Oryx, now extinct in the wild, is thriving at Flamingo Land, where we reared yet another calf this year. Verdcourt’s Polyalthia tree is also on the list, an endangered plant from Tanzania, protected as part of Flamingo Land’s forest conservation initiative, the Udzungwa Forest Project.
Last month Flamingo Land’s Director of Conservation Dr Andy Marshall, Zoo Manager Ross Snipp and Tropical Conservation Research Assistant Jennifer Archer (myself) visited Tanzania to work on the Zoo’s conservation project, The Udzungwa Forest Project (UFP).
Flamingo Land has been supporting the project in its conservation, research and educational work in rural Tanzania for the past four years and is aiming to break new ground for zoo-funded conservation.
For Ross and me it was a fascinating first visit, full of new experiences. We participated in all things UFP, including environmental education classes with schoolchildren, forest restoration work and monkey surveys. The highlight of the trip was the project’s annual UFP Day in one of the local villages, packed full of fun and educational environmental activities, presentations and school performances...
Here in the zoo we try and combine our activities, teaching people about our animals but also keeping our animals active. That is why, when Zoo Academy participants were learning about our Hamadryas baboons, the keepers and the education staff put their heads together. The keepers wanted to ensure that we could give the food to the baboons in a safe way and the education staff wanted to highlight the foods the baboons eat and introduce the zoo troopers to the concept of animal enrichment.
And what did we come up with? Baboon balloons! You can even try this at home and place them in your garden for the native wildlife that may be visiting! The zoo troopers blew up a balloon, dipped edible paper into a mixture of flour and water (we could not use PVA glue which is usually used for papier mâché because the baboons might eat it). We covered the balloon with 3 layers of the dripping paper. Once the entire balloon was covered we put it on a cup to dry. Once dry we filled the baboon balloons with hay, nuts and dried fruit: a tasty treat for our baboons!