Keynsham wildlife group throws open doors on Bristol Zoo's work and inhabitants

December 05 2015
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Close encounters with a range of creepy crawlies and little critters were among the highlights of an evening with Bristol Zoo’s Simon Garrett, hosted by the Keynsham branch of the Avon Wildlife Trust. The group reports on the event.

December 2015

Close encounters with a range of creepy crawlies and little critters were among the highlights of an evening with Bristol Zoo’s Simon Garrett, hosted by the Keynsham branch of the Avon Wildlife Trust. The group reports on the event.

Despite a wet and windy evening many people turned out for a fun event organised by the Keynsham Group of Avon Wildlife Trust at Wellsway School in November.

Simon Garrett, head of learning at Bristol Zoo Gardens, gave a wonderful informal presentation to the young, and not so young, audience involving much leaping around learning how coral polyps grow and multiply, and also demonstrating how millipedes move – each set of legs jumps forward from the rear.

Simon was ably aided by members of the Green Team at Wellsway School, including their use of the iPad to show close-ups of exhibits on the big screen.

After the refreshment break, Simon gave an illustrated talk about Bristol Zoo through the ages – the site hasn’t changed much from its opening in 1835 when it was founded by Henry Riley, a local physician who led the formation of the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society.

But although the land is still the same, what we see and can do there now is far removed from the early days of big exhibits of elephants, lions and polar bears. And zoos now and going forward will play a much bigger role in conservation, not only through breeding programs at the zoos but also by their support for initiatives overseas in the countries where wildlife is in danger.

We also enjoyed some “hands-on” critters courtesy of volunteers from the zoo, including Madagascan hissing cockroaches, giant snails and giant stick insects. Plus, did you know spiders all shed their outer skins as a process of growing? We were able to compare a live tarantula with its exoskeleton (the discarded skin). One is alive and one is inanimate but they looked so similar.

There was lots of interest in the pond dipping table where samples of water from the school pond were examined under viewers. Not all creatures needed a viewer to be seen – a newt collected as part of the sampling made an escape bid during the course of the evening when it wanted to find its own way back to the pond. Luckily it was rescued from the middle of the hall and made more secure until it could be returned to its home! A thoroughly fun and educational evening enjoyed by all!

Keynsham Group’s next meeting “A Christmas Compilation” on Friday, December 11, at 7.30pm is back to its normal venue of Keynsham Baptist Church Hall. It will feature a selection of short talks by local members, including a student’s local badger project and Panama as an up-and-coming travel destination for wildlife, plus festive refreshments.