Paradise Wildlife Park

The Big Bird Box Build: Sustainably Saving Swifts

Hertfordshire Zoo - 7th Jul, 2023


5 million tonnes of waste products from build projects across the country finds it’s way to landfill every year. This was front and centre of the minds of the sustainability committee at Paradise Wildlife Park during the construction of the new ‘Sun Bear Heights’ and ‘Jaguar Jungle’ habitats. With the habitats using FSC wood in the construction of these projects an idea was brought about that would encompass sustainability, education and conservation of a native species. The Big Bird Box Build: Sustainably Saving Swifts used the off cuts of wood from the habitat builds to create nest boxes for the common swift apus apus. The swift has seen a dramatic decline in the last 30 years with a 50% reduction in the population of swifts arriving in the UK to nest. With nesting sites being lost through the redevelopment of old buildings there was an opportunity to help this threatened species of bird. This proved an exciting opportunity to have a dramatic impact on the future of the common swift apus apus in the UK.

With the rebranding to Hertfordshire Zoo in 2024 it also was seen as an opportunity for the zoo to take a leading role in helping schools across the county of Hertfordshire develop and monitor biodiversity on their school site. With the upcoming introduction of the ‘National Nature Education’ and from initial survey data highlighting that only 2% of schools in the county of Hertfordshire have a swift box on their school site, this was seen as the perfect opportunity to create a network of swift boxes. In order to reach the students within those schools a selection of education resources were created to help students learn more about swifts and how they can support them. These were embedded into QR codes that, along with the Hertfordshire Zoo logo were placed on the side panels of each box. Schools were also supported with resources to help them construct and install their boxes on school sites across the county as well as a way to monitor them with a link to the national Swiftmapper app.

A core team of staff came together to retrieve the wood and build the first 254 boxes. Members of staff from all departments including the zoos directors attended ‘Sand and Brand’ evenings to sand down the boxes and attach logos and QR codes to the boxes. This site wide project gave all staff the chance to contribute to a sustainability driven, community focussed conservation project.

The project provided 254 schools across the county of Hertfordshire in year 1 with a sustainably built swift box. However, the project is not stopping there, with a further 139 hoped to be built from the off cuts of new build projects on the park, ensuring every single primary school in Hertfordshire would have gained a swift box through this project.

More information about the project can be found here (624) The Big Bird Box Build | Paradise Wildlife Park - YouTube

This project won Silver in the BIAZA Sustainability Awards category in 2023.

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