While most people run screaming at the sight of one of our eight legged friends, Zoo Keepers at Chessington World of Adventures Resort have been working to ensure a native breed of spider doesn’t face extinction in the wild. And the hard work has paid off - their success in reintroducing the endangered fen raft spider species into the British wilds has won Gold at the annual BIAZA awards.
Fen Raft Spiders are a native of the UK; they are the largest Spider that resides here – so large in fact that they eat fish! However Fen Rafts have become extremely rare in the UK and have been listed as Endangered. This sadly dwindling population has largely been affected by human encroachment. In 2011 Chessington World of Adventures Resort decided to help change this and became involved in conserving this vulnerable species. Chessington began working on the rearing and releasing of the Fen Rafts to increase their population in the wild. Over a two year period, Chessington released 400 spiderlings overall and helped prove that reintroduction of this species into new areas worked. Wild numbers almost doubled during this time and the programme was so successful that Zoo’s no longer have to rear the spiders to keep the population up.
BIAZA recently recognised Chessington’s successful work on the Fen Rafts at their Annual Awards, and awarded Chessington, in collaboration with nine other BIAZA members, with a Gold Award for this work.
Keith Russell, a Supervisor within the Zoo team at Chessington, was instrumental in leading this important work and accepted the award on behalf of the Zoo stating “The successful work on reintroducing the Fen Raft species is a great example of the good Zoos can do in helping conserve endangered species in the wild. Here at Chessington we are very pleased to have received such high praise and recognition from BIAZA for the part we played in this project.”
Project partners for the programme include NE (Natural England), the BBC Wildlife Fund, and the Suffolk and Sussex Wildlife trusts.
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