It is the latest move in a bid to help declining animals and plants here in the UK, a key region in Chester Zoo’s global Act For Wildlife conservation campaign.
Zoo experts have begun works to create and enhance important fragile habitat – which will more than quadruple the size of the zoo’s current free-to-enter Nature Reserve.
Located outside the boundary of the main zoo near to its visitor entrance, the Nature Reserve first opened in 2013. It currently spans about 10,000 square metres of land, and contains an amphitheatre, a wildlife pond and a new woodland with 150 native trees.
Now, the site will grow to more than 50,000 square metres before opening to visitors in 2018. Entry for visitors will remain free.
Surveys have shown that the site is already home to lots of British wildlife, from rare polecats and the sharply declining hedgehog, to a range of bee and butterfly species and the great crested newt. Birds including reed-bunting, grasshopper warbler and skylark are already known to nest in the area, and threatened harvest mice were introduced to the area by conservationists at the zoo in 2002 and 2003.
Sarah Bird, Chester Zoo biodiversity officer, said:
“We’re transforming land that has been used for agriculture into a more natural landscape that will feature wildflower meadows, ponds, beetle banks, trees and reedbeds. We will link into a strip of wetland along the canal, which is designated as a Local Wildlife Site for the animals and plants already present. We want to make a really great wildlife corridor allowing species to live at the reserve, and move through the landscape when they need to.
“We hope visitors will enjoy this oasis for UK wildlife when it opens in 2018. As well as helping threatened species, we want it to reconnect people with the natural world and inspire further conservation action.
“British wildlife is under threat, but it’s not too late to take action. We won’t stand back. Every one of us can make a difference.”
The Chester Zoo Nature Reserve is being part funded by WREN through the FCC Community Action Fund via a Landfill Communities Funding agreement.
The zoo’s existing 10,000 square metre Nature Reserve will remain open to the public throughout the development of the expanded area.
The project will work alongside the zoo’s Wildlife Connections campaign, which aims to empower visitors to join the fight to protect our declining wildlife at home, in gardens, parks and schools.