Zoo staff pleasantly surprised by more than just their usual animals calling the zoo home
Although this summer has been anything but normal at Africa Alive! (and everywhere else!) the zoo staff were very happy to see that that some things do never change.
Over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of September, Africa Alive! held its annual bioblitz – a 24-hour count of the native nature that calls the zoo home. Despite the fact this year’s event had to take place on a much-reduced scale than in previous years, over 350 species were spotted by local species recorders and the Zoo’s Conservation Education team.
Although the summer is now winding down and the leaves starting to fall, a few reminders of warm summer days were spotted – field grasshoppers and bush crickets were seen amongst the long, dry grasses; flashes of blue and red from hawker and darter dragonflies danced around the water’s edges and beautiful butterfliers including small coppers and common blue were seen enjoying the last of the summer flowers .
After the sun had set, nature continued to make itself known – thanks to some technology! Bat detectors were used to identify a number of bat species including noctule and pipistrelle, and camera traps showed badgers playing, foxes hunting and muntjac grazing. Other mammals spotted during the weekend include otter, rabbit and even a polecat or polecat/ferret hybrid – a definite first for the zoo.
But in terms of numbers the most impressive count belongs to the moths. Over 100 species of moths were identified – including some large species such as the privet hawk moth and some tiny micromoths, only identifiable by an expert. Over the last seven years in which the zoo has hosted its annual bioblitz, there have been over 420 different species of moth recorded there.
Stewart Wright, Local moth recorder who took part in the event, said: “Even without a light trap I was able to record over one hundred species of moth. Africa Alive has (sic) such a wide range of trees, making it the most productive site for leaf-mining species that I have ever visited.’”
The zoo is also home to a lake and a number of smaller areas of freshwater, which are a perfect spot for seeing dragonflies. Twenty species of dragon and damselflies have been recorded there, many of which have been seen to breed in the waters of the zoo. Over 70 different types of birds have been seen in the zoo grounds, including a number of Birds of Conservation Concern Red and Amber list species.
Sara Goatcher, Conservation Education Manager, said: “One of my favourite animals to spot during our Bioblitz events is the kingfisher – it can take patience to spot them, but their amazing colours and distinctive call make them easy to identify and they often come as a surprise to our guests who see them whizzing past the lemur islands!”
At a time when we have all had to stay close to home, ZSEA has been focussing some of its conservation attention on what we can do to protect, save and conserve the wonderful wildlife we have here in the UK. The wildlife surveys at Africa Alive have now recorded over 1,400 different species using the zoo, and this information is sent on to national databases, and is also used to create a Native Species Conservation Plan for Africa Alive!