The keepers and staff at Woburn Safari Park raised over £42,000 for selected conservation charities in 2022, making the total raised over £164,000 in the last six years!
The team continues its long-term commitment to fundraising for these conservation projects to help protect the long-term future of vulnerable animal species by making a direct contribution to in-situ and ex-situ conservation projects.
Roaring AI success
Jonathan Growcott - a PhD student at the Environmental Intelligence Centre of Doctoral Training - deployed two non-invasive technologies to monitor the lion population:
- camera traps - motion-activated cameras that capture short videos of the lions
- autonomous recording units - microphones that record lion roars and other vocalisations
Supervised by a team of researchers from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation and Computer Science departments at the University of Exeter, and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford, the data collected by these devices at Woburn will be combined with AI to develop a tool that can automatically detect the roars of wild lions from recordings gathered from fieldwork in Zimbabwe and other Southern African soundscapes.
Isolating these roars will enable better understanding of wild lions’ behaviour, distribution patterns, and population dynamics, and help guide their conservation.
Footprints in the Sand
WildTrack's mission is to protect endangered species and they are in the process of developing a Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) that can directly inform conservations of species activity and their conservation status in the wild.
By using sophisticated computer programmes and algorithms, WildTrack can offer a non-invasive and cost-effective conservation tool. However, to refine this tool they require known footprints. Woburn is currently uploading dozens of footprint images from the male Asian short-clawed otter group to add to the system's knowledge. The Park's input will assist in the four native ranges where Asian otter species are known to exist.
Determining which footprints come from which species can directly contribute to effectively directing conservation efforts. In particular, gaining this level of knowledge is crucial to allow for the monitoring and support of the critically endangered hairy-nosed otter.
Check out WildTrack's Non-Invasive Wildlife Monitoring Footprint Identification Technology to find out more.
How to Attract a Bear 101
Monitoring species in their native habitat is key to guiding the most effective conservation efforts. Camera traps are a low-cost method enabling researchers to conduct this type of research, however, in large native ranges, the chance of missing activity is quite high.
Working alongside conservation charity, Free the Bears, the research team at Woburn Safari Park has been working to help determine a range of attractant scents for bears. With help from the sleuth of North American black bears at the Park, the team has been testing various scents (including honey and other sweet smells) to determine how effective they are in attracting attention from the bears. This pilot study has also acted as a great enrichment activity for the Park's bears.
In 2022, Woburn Safari Park will be continuing to support the same researcher as she trials the methodology while volunteering with Free the Bears in Cambodia.
To learn more about Free the Bears and their work, check out Free the Bears - Our Story.
Whilst the safari park does fantastic ex-situ conservation work with the animals in our care, we also help to look after the native species that live in our beautiful parkland here in Bedfordshire.
Bio blitz survey
Each year we welcome experts from the Bedfordshire Natural History Society (BNHS) for an annual Bio-Blitz! This is a 24-hour survey of all flora and fauna in the park, helping us to continue the careful management of the park for our native species. Notable species that have been found living here include Barbastelle, Bechstein’s, and Brown-long eared bats; Pseudotriphyllus sutralis a beetle which is on the IUCN list as ‘near threatened’ and lives in veteran trees; and the Copper Ermel moth which is nationally scarce.
In the 2022 BioBlitz, a few highlights included finding:
- A total of 42 bird species
- Spotting two crossbills which is a bird species that haven't been recorded as breeding in Bedfordshire for decades
- Sighting a small brown sawfly known as Pristiphora laricis which is the first time it has been recorded in Bedfordshire since 1951
National Harvest Mouse Survey
In early 2023, the team at Woburn Safari Park participated in the Mammal Society’s National Harvest Mouse Survey. This was not an easy task as harvest mice nests are hidden well amongst tall grass, but luckily volunteers were eagle eyed and up for the challenge. The team were pleased to survey 8 new areas for the county, discovering 6 harvest mouse nests, 2 of which were found close to home.
Helping to understand local harvest mouse distribution was a welcomed opportunity for the team, seeing as this species is so close to our heart, with a new set of adorable harvest mice having moved into the Park in 2022.
Bird Surveying On Site
Woburn Safari Park is home to many species of stunning native birds - it is hard to miss the wake of kites circling over the Kingdom of Carnivores as you drive through! To better understand which species we have on site and therefore how best to manage certain areas of land we accepted the kind offer of help from bird enthusiast and regular Bioblitzer; Harry.
During our first survey, 25 species were identified through site or song. This included 3 native birds of prey as well as some well recognised native species; robins, woodpeckers and nuthatches. We also spotted skylarks which are both a Red Listed and Protected Species due to huge population declines during the 1990s. They are ground nesting birds found usually in farmland, but have suffered from recent changes in farming from spring to autumn sown cereals.
Volunteer Harry and the Woburn team were delighted with the results for a first survey, and will continue to monitor the avian visitors that pop into the Park regularly.
Photo credit: Harry Appleyard
National Water Vole Survey
After the success of the Harvest Mouse Survey, Woburn’s research and conservation team were keen to help survey another native species: the water vole, Britain’s largest species of vole. (Some people may recognise this species as ‘Ratty’ in The Wind and The Willows!)
Water Vole populations have plummeted since the illegal release of American Mink in the 1980-90s. Invasive mink have successfully preyed upon this vulnerable but charismatic native species, resulting in a population reduction of almost 90% in 10 years. They are listed as Endangered on the Great Britain and England Red List for Mammals and are a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Framework.
Water voles are an elusive species and in order to protect them we need to know where they are. The National Water Vole Survey - led by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species - gathers important data on both population numbers, present threats and the habitat that they remain in.
In 2023 Woburn volunteered to survey two of the previously surveyed sites, walking a total of 1200m of waterway. Despite the best efforts of the team, wet socks and deceptive rat footprints, the team found no signs of water vole at either location - but the results will enter the national database, helping to refine where best to direct conservation efforts for this very sweet native mammal.
Ancient Woodland Survey
Surveying habitat is just as important as surveying the species that use it! The National Trust recently conducted an Ancient Woodland Survey which the Woburn research and conservation team were happy to contribute to.
The Woburn Estate were asked to survey woodland on a particular portion of the estate to determine whether the woodland would be considered as ancient. The results did not confirm the classification of ancient woodland, however all the data is entered into the national database to assist protection of these slow growing, unique habitats!
Some new projects at Woburn Safari Park in 2022 will specifically look at helping our native insects. The Garden Tiger Moth is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species, which has been recorded in Bedfordshire. We will be working with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (BIAZA) Terrestrial Invertebrate Working Group, to raise a colony of these beautiful moths, to then release within the park.
Again, working alongside BIAZA, we will create areas that are suitable for British bees, a ‘Nectar Café’, by allowing wildflower areas within the park, encouraging these important pollinators. In the last 80 years, our bumblebee populations have crashed. Two species have become nationally extinct and several others have declined dramatically.
Monitoring native species is key to protecting Britain’s wildlife. The team at Woburn have been taking native species observations on site and uploading them to the online dataset – iNaturalist.
Join us as animal rangers to find what other species we have on site!
Is that a kite flying above the lions? Is that a robin in monkey jungle? What about a cricket in bush dogs or a frog at Swan Lake?
Help us to monitor and record our incredibly important native species (both plant and animal) who share their home with the safari animals - join the BIAZA backed 'Spotted on site' campaign demonstrating the native species supported by UK zoos and safari parks!
TO TAKE PART: Simply take a pic, upload it to the iNaturalist App, place the location within the Wildlife at Woburn Project Boundary and become a conservationist today! Visit iNaturalist.org to sign up and start spotting.