Conservationists at Chester Zoo are set to unveil a 60,000 square metre Nature Reserve – providing protected habitat for threatened British wildlife.
The new wildlife haven – located outside the boundary of the main zoo – will be free for visitors to enter when it opens on Friday (April 27).
The site is already known to be home to a variety of species of local and national significance, such as kingfishers, hedgehogs and harvest mice, with reported occasional sightings of otters and many other species.
Part of the reserve is designated as a Local Wildlife Site for the important plants, birds and invertebrates recorded there.
Designed as a community place for relaxing and wildlife space for learning, Chester Zoo first built a small Nature Reserve in 2013.
The new area is a 600% expansion, providing new and larger protected habitats for vulnerable species, and a bigger community space.
Over the coming years the area will develop further as plants and wildflowers begin to flourish.
Sarah Bird, biodiversity officer at Chester Zoo, said: “This area was formerly used for agriculture, but over the past two years we have been carefully restoring it to allow nature to move in and thrive.
“It now comprises wildflower meadows, ponds, beetle banks, log piles, trees and a reedbed, with a hide for viewing the wildlife.
“Linking into the strip of wetland along the canal, the reserve provides a new wildlife refuge at the zoo, and creates a corridor of habitat allowing species to move through the landscape when they need to.
“We hope visitors will enjoy it too – and if people are inspired to act for wildlife at home in their own gardens then even better!”
The Chester Zoo Nature Reserve has been part funded by a grant of £49,144 from WREN’s FCC Community Action Fund.
WREN is a not-for-profit business that awards grants for community projects from funds donated by FCC Environment through the Landfill Communities Fund.
The Nature Reserve will also provide a boost to British wildflowers.
Wildflowers are key to healthy habitats, bring colour to the countryside, and are important in their own right.
Yet one in five of Britain’s wildflowers is threatened with extinction in the UK and our flora is the least protected, invested in and acknowledged part of the country’s wildlife heritage.
The reserve is being officially supported and unveiled by TV presenter of Channel 4’s Wild Things, Dr Trevor Dines.
He said: “With over 97% of our wildflower meadows destroyed since the last world war, everything we can do to put some colour back into the countryside helps.
“The new meadow at Chester Zoo is a thrilling example, which contributes to a total of 2008 acres of new meadows created through HRHs Prince Charles’ Coronation Meadows project.
“I can’t wait to see flowers like yellow rattle, red clover and knapweed appear, providing valuable nectar and pollen to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.”
Chester Zoo’s new Nature Reserve will include a walking trail, fully accessible for buggies, wheelchairs and strollers.
Conservationists at the zoo hope the new area will inspire visitors to take action at home in their own gardens and community spaces to create additional pockets of wildlife habitat across the region and the UK.