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Bristol Zoo Gardens has won a string of national honours including a gold award for its work in saving one of the rarest spiders on earth.
The Desertas wolf spiders are found in only one valley in the Desertas Islands near Madeira, Portugal, where there is thought to be a population of just 4,000 adults left in the wild.
The Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates, Mark Bushell, travelled to Desertas Grande in May 2016 with zoo vet Richard Saunders and collected 25 Desertas wolf spiders to be brought back to the Zoo to breed as a ‘safety net’ population.
It led to more than 1,000 tiny Desertas wolf spiderlings hatching at the Zoo in what was a world first.
The gold award was presented at the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) annual conference in Devon.
The Zoo also received a silver award for the breeding and management of Lord Howe Island stick insects.
The Zoo’s effort to help save Desertas wolf spiders from extinction began in 2015. The species is incredibly difficult to look after but the skilled invertebrate team at the Zoo managed to get six animals to reach adulthood – three breeding pairs - which successfully produced eggs and led to a second generation hatching at the Zoo, which is now itself breeding.
Mark said: “We are delighted to receive the awards for our work with the Desertas wolf spiders and Lord Howe Island stick insects. In both cases it involved a lot of time and dedication but most importantly it was a team effort.”
Bristol Zoo also received a BIAZA silver award for its ‘Participatory Zoo Experience’, in which Zoo Rangers hosted interactive games in the Seal and Penguin Coasts’ tunnel.
They engaged guests and talked about the diversity of sea life and encouraged them to help reduce the human impact on the oceans.
And Jenny Scully, an employee at the Bristol Zoological Society, received a runner-up prize in the capturing hearts and minds section of the BIAZA annual photographic awards.
Her photograph was of a baby crowned lemur and its mum wrapped up like a roly-poly and called Crowned Cuddle.
Jenny, the Society’s data and insight manager, said: “I was in the lemur walk through and looked up to see this heart melting moment of mum and baby together.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before; it was a chance in a million and I was thrilled to see it and be able to take a picture of it.”
Bristol Zoological Society is a conservation and education charity that relies on the generous support of the public, not only to fund its important work at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.
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