In August 2012, Belfast Zoo officially opened a new interactive and educational exhibit called ‘red squirrel nook’, the first captive breeding programme for red squirrels in Northern Ireland.
This was the work of the zoo’s native species group, with the intention to focus on the conservation of native species in order to raise the profile of Northern Ireland’s wildlife.
In modern zoos, active environmental enhancements, such as animal exhibits, may be the key to combining recreation and education to provide a context for successful learning in an entertaining way. The primary aim of red squirrel nook was to educate Belfast Zoo visitors and Northern Ireland residents, about the plight of the red squirrel and the actions which they can take to help this species. Red squirrel nook now has the capacity to spread the educational message about red squirrels to approximately 300,000 Belfast Zoo visitors each year. This public awareness and knowledge will be imperative to the conservation and protection of this iconic native species.
Since opening the project has received significant media coverage and through anecdotal and recorded evidence, it has so far proven to be popular with visitors.