It's the annual BioBlitz 2015!

'Love Your Zoo' week

Here at Woburn Safari Park, we are kicking off the national BIAZA ‘Love your Zoo’ week on World Biodiversity Day (22nd May) by celebrating the great work that zoos often unintentionally do for a whole host of native species.

This weekend, the keepers will be holding their annual BioBlitz survey, which determines lots of the native species that choose to live and thrive at Woburn Safari Park within the Foot Safari section.

When people visit zoos and aquariums, they come primarily to see the host of exotic; often endangered species that are held and protected in these establishments. But a zoo or aquarium by its very nature also becomes a haven for equally important rare and endangered native species.

Supported by local experts, the team of keepers are hoping to discover lots of native species, which in 2014 included:

• Leaf gall smut (a type of mould and the only recorded occurrence in the UK)

• Breeding ravens 

• House mice (the only breeding occurrence on record in Bedfordshire in 2014)

• Beckstein bats (which are very scarce nationally) 

And the less rare, but charmingly named 'Barry the Bank Vole' (pictured below).

Barry The Bank Vole

Helped by the keepers

At Woburn Safari Park you will see obvious evidence of how we are purposefully helping the native species on our site; for example with the bird boxes that are in the Australian walkabout exhibit.

By the very nature of how the keepers take care of the animals, they are inadvertently preparing perfect habitats for the birds to find food and nesting material. Did you know that faeces increases the number of invertebrates in the enclosure and moulting wallaby hair provides great nesting material?

Other ways the keepers encourage native species is by leaving felled trees to rot down naturally to encourage invertebrate and by allowing large areas of wild grass to remain uncut. The Animal Encounters section of the Foot Safari also has a number of large old trees in which are perfect for birds and bats to take cover in.

Happy at Woburn

Recently in Otter Falls (home to two Asian Short Clawed Otters), keeper Louise noticed a brave little Robin darting in to the enclosure to steal the mealworms she was feeding the otters. It turned out the robin was feeding her chicks, located in a nest within the bushes.

During the 2014 Bioblitz, keepers and experts found house mice under the chicken shed – a fantastic find as so far Woburn Safari Park are the only live recording of house mice in Bedfordshire. This little mouse is persecuted as it lives close to human activity. Fortunately, they found a happy home at Woburn and are harmlessly living under the chicken shed where they are kept warm, safe from predators and are cheeky enough to steal some corn from the chickens from time to time! All in all proving that Woburn Safari Park is a perfect habitat for many native species.