College Connect – November 2023

Askham Bryan Wildlife and Conservation Park has been shortlisted for a British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) award recognising wildlife projects across the British Isles. The winner will be announced in January 2024.

Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has commended the Park for being “exceptional” in its latest inspection report. Here, Jo Richards, Curriculum Area Manager, Animal Management, explains how college students, wildlife and visitors benefit from the educational facility.

What inspired the opening of Askham Bryan Wildlife and Conservation Park?

Askham Bryan Wildlife and Conservation Park originates from an animal collection that was solely used to teach students at Askham Bryan College in York.

The College decided to expand the collection and share the benefits with a wider audience. At its heart is a commitment to conservation and educating the next generation.

One of the largest build projects in the college’s 75-year history, the £6.8 million facility opened in 2017 comprising a two-storey animal management building featuring a range of world wildlife habitats and modern teaching facilities

Askham Bryan Wildlife and Conservation Park has a dual role. During term time, the park is a teaching and research facility for Askham Bryan College students. At weekends and outside of term time, it is open to the public.

We are really proud of the facility which has around 144 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates, many of which are under threat of extinction.

Tell us more about the collection, rare species and facilities?

The collection includes slender grey slo loris, red-bellied tamarins, rhino iguanas, Asian short clawed otters, large hairy armadillos and Sulcata tortoises as well as native species such as the Tansy Beetle.

We are a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). BIAZA zoos and aquariums participate in over 800 conservation projects globally, 1,400 research projects and contribute more than £24 million a year to field conservation.

Our membership means that the park is recognised as adhering to an enhanced set of standards. We are part of an elite group of collections that are maintaining the highest standard for our collection and our students as they prepare to contribute to the future zoo industry.

DEFRA’s latest inspection report, in July 2023, commends the park for being “exceptional” stating that it “demonstrates what best in practice can look like… this is an exceptional zoo and shows what a modern zoo can be, I cannot imagine a better training environment for the next generation of zoo animal carers.”

Encouragingly, the report notes that the inspector was hugely impressed by the knowledge, capability and passion of the park’s management and team.

In addition to the collection of 144 species, the park also has an arboretum of rare and exotic trees from around the world including giant redwood, coast redwood, twister hazel, Indian horse chestnut and Hungarian oaks.

How important is the facility for Askham Bryan College students?

As a specialist land-based college, we are developing the next generation of talent to respond to current and future challenges for the economy and environment.

The knowledge and skills that our animal management and veterinary nursing students have gained through various curriculum and industry-relevant projects will benefit them in their future conservation-based careers.

It is vital that students have access to a curriculum and facilities that keep pace with industry developments. Our students have the opportunity to be involved in some fantastic projects.

We are delighted to have been shortlisted as a finalist in BIAZA’s Great British Wildlife Restoration competition 2023. The College is one of 22 organisations across the British Isles to have been shortlisted by BIAZA and the only one in Yorkshire. We are especially proud to be the only student-led project.

The competition shines a spotlight on projects that aim to tackle the drastic decline of native species. Designed by animal management students, the college’s pollinator project aims to conserve native butterflies, moths and bees by creating plant beds designed for each target species.

Students have planted 10 zones. They have chosen plants that specifically target each of the 10 key focus species of pollinators that they identified were missing or low in numbers across the college after conducting surveys.

They have also designed and displayed information about the project to enable all students and visitors to learn about the importance of the UK’s pollinators in maintaining biodiversity nationally.

We look forward to seeing how we get on. The winner will be announced in January 2024 at an awards ceremony at the Houses of Parliament.

How does the park also benefit the wider community?

In terms of our wider community, it is vital that we play our part in conserving our local environment and educating the public as well as our students.

For example, the State of Nature report from the State of Nature Partnership, in September 2023, highlights that 1,500 native species are at risk of being lost and one in six species are at risk of extinction.

The report notes that pollinating insects are worth millions of pounds to UK agriculture, however their decline threatens food production given that the majority of flowering plants need help with pollination.

We have been involved in a range of projects at the park including, more recently, our pollinator project shortlisted for a BIAZA award. Our efforts to conserve the Tansy beetle have involved supporting the work of the Tansy Beetle Action Group.

Other projects to support endangered species have resulted in preserving a piece of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest the same size as the park, supporting African hunting dogs with life-saving radio tracking collars, and working with the Freshwater Habitats Trust to conserve critically endangered medicinal leeches amongst others.

The park was awarded the Tripadvisor Travelers Choice Award 2022. This is due to our consistently great reviews on Tripadvisor thanks to our visitors who have provided such lovely feedback. We are very proud of the wildlife team for all of their efforts in assuring not only our students but our visitors have a positive experience.

Find out more about upcoming open events on 11th November and 25th November.


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