Native Species Conservation and The Wildlife Trust

BIAZA  and The Wildlife Trusts have this year joined forces to create a new partnership ‘Wildlife at Home’ focusing on native species conservation.

The aim is to facilitate connections between BIAZA member zoos and aquariums and their local Wildlife Trusts, working with native species projects that are locally important. BIAZA members are also collaborating to fund essential conservation management work at the Godmanchester Nature Reserve, chosen as the flagship reserve for this partnership.

The Reserve at Godmanchester is an old quarry site, with four lakes that were former gravel pits; the lakes are interspersed with grassland and ancient hedgerows, providing habitats for a myriad of bird, reptile, amphibian and mammal species. The reserve forms part of The Wildlife Trusts’ Ouse Valley Living Landscape, one of the priority areas for conservation.

The BIAZA  team’s task for the day was a simple one – the trust needed volunteers to help with the removal of vast numbers of small willow trees from the reed beds which act as important nesting habitats for a number of bird species, particularly warblers. If left, the willows will outcompete the reeds turning the area into a scrubby willow carr and the nesting grounds will be lost.

A team of volunteers from Woburn Safari Park, Paradise Wildlife Park, the Raptor Foundation and Shepreth Wildlife Park arrived at 10am and were given a comprehensive safety briefing by Greg Belcher from The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, before heading off to the waterline to start work. The team managed to clear not only the intended area, but also progressed into an additional adjacent reed bed and began clearing that also.

James Cork from Paradise Wildlife Park and Native Species Working Group member, said “It was a great project to be a part of; it was hard work but rewarding after seeing what the team had achieved.” Highlights of the day included seeing a great white egret and a beautiful murmuration of starlings over the reed beds we had just been clearing, whilst sitting by the fire, drinking tea and eating biscuits before heading home.

This is an exciting partnership with great scope for development, not only of this particular site, but for BIAZA member involvement in native species projects in general. In future we hope to be able to work with staff at the Godmanchester site and utilise the area for training in practical surveying/trapping/ringing and species identification skills alongside assisting with important ongoing habitat management work. It presents a real opportunity for BIAZA members at all levels to become involved in practical conservation on their doorstep, learning new skills whilst making a valuable contribution to in situ conservation.

There are likely to be more opportunities to get involved with similar practical conservation management work at the Godmanchester Reserve in 2016. If you or your staff would like to get involved then contact Hayley Potter to register your interest.