CHESTER Zoo is teaming up with a leading biodiversity information centre to launch an important new wildlife project.

It follows survey results which show that numbers of house sparrows, starlings and blackbirds have fallen dramatically over the last 30 years.

All three species have been familiar residents of British back gardens for decades.

Monitoring local wildlife is the aim of the new project to be launched by the zoo and rECOrd, Cheshire’s biodiversity information centre.

Called “Count Me In!” the project will create the wildlife recorders of the future by encouraging people to actively take note of the wildlife they see.

Over the next two years there will be a programme of interactive training events looking in detail at wild animals and plants.

Many of the events will take place at Chester Zoo and the remainder at important wildlife locations elsewhere in Cheshire.

Thanks to generous funding from the National Lottery and the Esmee Fairburn Foundation, all Count Me In! events will be free.

“Our world’s biodiversity is under threat and already we are seeing steep declines in species that we previously considered common,” said project coordinator Karen Lawson.

“Understanding the wildlife around us, by observing and recording changes, also helps to protect and enhance the local environment by guiding conservation action.”

The “Count Me In!” launch will take place on January 24 at Chester Zoo during the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch (BGBW).

Pre-booked guests will be taken on a guided bird watch around the zoo by a bird expert, shown how to identify and record birds, how to submit records online and how to use the latest wildlife recording technology.

Specialists from the zoo, rECOrd, Chester RSPB, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Liverpool Museum will be on hand throughout the day to help with the identification of common garden birds.

The event will be open to paying visitors to the Zoo as an additional attraction.

Places can be booked by phoning 01244 383749.