Promoting Awareness of Conservation Issues
Ensuring our visitors have an understanding of the critical status of the animals at the park and spreading awareness of our conservation methods, is central to the work carried out by The Aspinall Foundation and Howletts Wild Animal Park.
Many of the animals at Howletts are endangered, or critically endangered and face a very real possibility of extinction in the wild. Our mission is to provide a safe, natural environment for these animals. Howletts is a charity and a breeding sanctuary. Wherever possible, we return animals born at the park, to protected areas of their natural habitat.
Our hope is to engage our visitors and open their minds to conservation, whilst encouraging them to make small changes to minimise their impact on the environment.
The Education Centre is vital to providing education to visitors all year round. It enables us to engage with groups of all ages – particularly the younger generation – to convey our conservation messages.
Before the project began, The Education Centre was in desperate need of updating and decorating and this is when we approached Southern Water’s Community Team.
We presented The Education Centre to them as it was and explained the vision that we had for the building and adjoining garden. After an employee vote, we were selected to be given a generous grant that has helped us to improve our education offering.
The work was split into three key areas; The Visitor Engagement Room, The Cinema Room and The Nature Garden.
The Visitor Engagement Room
We have been able to update the front room of the building and create a Visitor Engagement room, with new display cabinets, which show real items that are traded illegally. These have already grabbed the attention of many of our visitors and put the illegal trade of wildlife artefacts at the forefront of public awareness.
Another feature in this room is our new “Monthly Theme” display board and the first theme will be related to our partnership with Southern Water. Like Howletts, Southern Water is committed to protecting the environment with their focus being on the conservation of water. There are many links between our own conservation work and Southern Water’s and we are pleased to have the opportunity to unify our ideas and give a clear message to our visitors.
The Cinema Room
The animals at Howletts are given access to all parts of their enclosure so it can be difficult to spot animals sheltering in covered elements of their space. This does not mean visitors should be put off! To help add to the day, we have developed a Cinema Room.
Previously the classroom, this room was only used for school groups and presentations. Just like the Visitor Engagement Room, it has massively benefitted from an overhaul.
The new blackout blinds give it a cosy feel and enable visitors to watch the videos on the big screen. The projector has a new, made for purpose stand and there are sturdy benches for visitors to rest on.
The Nature Garden
Providing a space for native species of plants and animals was an important aspect of the new Education Centre. Not only is the garden now teaming with native wildlife, it is also accessible meaning groups will be able to benefit from the space too.
The pond is bridged by an area for children to kneel on while taking part in pond dipping activities, the path is defined and the native plants now have room to grow. Ten bird species have already been spotted benefiting from the improved space, as well as a range of insects, voles, frogs and newts.
Overall, the changes to The Education Centre have been overwhelming. We are so grateful to Southern Water for the generous donation, their support throughout the project and the tireless volunteers who have contributed to every part of this project.
We now have a space that is not only fit for purpose, but that will benefit many of our visitors for years to come. The Education Centre is fundamental to ensuring that our vital conservation work is well communicated and with the redevelopment, made possible by Southern Water, we stand a good chance of engaging all our visitors and making a real difference!