Wildlife Connections Festival takes place at Chester Zoo this weekend. It comprises nature activities, live music, outdoor theatre and family fun.
The festival is an initiative by conservationists in a bid to put a spotlight on local species in dramatic decline. It’s free to attend and takes place at the zoo’s Nature Reserve until 17 September.
Manon Keir, project officer Chester Zoo’s Wildlife Connections, said: “The Wildlife Connections Festival is a real celebration of how wonderful the species around us are, but it also aims to highlight the threats facing them that could mean future generations don’t get the chance to enjoy seeing them.
Experts say that the UK’s wildlife has undergone a rapid decline over the last 15 years. Recent surveys indicate the hedgehog population in Britain has decreased by 50 per cent in rural areas since 2002, while one in five wildflowers are faced with extinction and 72 per cent of British butterfly species are under serious threat.
UK habitat has also changed dramatically; much of Britain was once swathed in woodland but it now covers just 12 per cent of the land.
The zoo’s Wildlife Connections Festival is part of its wider Wildlife Connections campaign. The initiative has been helping UK wildlife by creating new areas of good habitat in gardens, parklands and community spaces.
The year’s festival will give families the chance to dash through the Hedgehog Maze, build dens, dress up like a butterfly and join a huge Pollinator Parade.
Sharp-eyed visitors will spot a range of species by joining in with a bug hunt and pond dipping before relaxing in the chill-out zone or learning more at the Sustainability Centre.
Families can even learn how to make seed bombs and bird feeders to take home and bring wildlife to their own gardens.
Keir added: “Everyone can make a difference and help local wildlife and showing people how is exactly what this festival is all about. The festival promises to be a lot of fun but, above all, we want it to inspire more people to take action for native British species.”
The zoo is even offering its first ever Wildlife Connections Sleepover to allow families the chance to camp out and get even closer to nature, spot moths and bats, enjoy the star gazing and wake up to animal yoga before breakfast.
The zoo’s Nature Reserve is a two-acre wildlife haven which is home to a wide variety of local species and features wildflower meadows, a pond and a grass amphitheatre.
Other highlights include interactive storytelling, creating willow sculptures and the opportunity to build bird feeders and bug homes. Visitors can also take a drone’s eye view of the landscape and find out how drones can support conservation work.
The Wildlife Connections Festival has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The Sleepover experience is £49 and a child’s ticket is £29, bookable via the Chester Zoo website.