Twycross Zoo Young Conservationist-in-Chief

I won a competition to be a Twycross Zoo Young Conservationist-in-Chief!

Twycross Zoo is a zoo near where I live. It’s got lots of endangered animals there like Amur leopards, gibbons, snow leopards and lemurs. It’s the only zoo in the UK that has all four types of great ape: gorillas, orang utans, chimpanzees and bonobos.

When I visited Twycross Zoo before I felt sad about how many of the animals there were endangered and I wrote an article about it.

Twycross Zoo works to help endangered animals by looking after them and breeding them until it’s safe for them to be released back into the wild. They also tell people about the problems for endangered animals and how they can help and they give money to help endangered animals in the wild. They also try to help by being environmentally friendly. For example, they only use foods with sustainable palm oil in their cafe, the cuddly toys in their shop are made from recycled plastic bottles, some of the rooms have lights with motion sensors to save electricity and most of the rubbish in their bins is recycled.

When I found out I had won the competition I felt really excited and proud. The prize was to have a special day out at the zoo with my brothers where they showed us around and talked to us about the animals and about helping wildlife and the planet, especially the rainforests.

There were five Young Conservationist-in-Chiefs altogether. At the start of the day we met the boss of Twycross Zoo, Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE, and she gave me a certificate.

We also met Finn, one of Twycross Zoo’s Discovery and Learning Rangers. He knew loads and loads about all the animals at Twycross Zoo.

First we went to see the orang utans, then the gibbons. The gibbons made loads of noise! They went “Woooooo-oooooo!” Then we went to see the chimpanzees. We met the chimpanzees’ keeper and learnt loads about them and we learnt all their names. I really liked William because he was cute and cheeky and he likes to pull faces at people! After the chimpanzees we went to see the gorillas. The big boss gorilla is called a silverback. The two youngest gorillas were eight and five, which is the same age as me and my brothers!

Next I got to feed the meerkats! There were meerkats running all around my feet! First they ate the easy to find food, then one of them found the food I’d thrown off to the left to make it harder for them to find and started to eat that.

After lunch we made some toys for the gibbons. We put some hay in some toilet rolls, then we hid sweet potato in the middle then put some more hay in until it was full. Then we put the toys into a bag that one of the keepers was holding. Then the keeper put it on the ceiling of the gibbons’ enclosures and the gibbons had to put their hands through to try and get the sweet potato out.

It’s important for the animals to have toys and challenges to stop them getting bored. I thought the gibbons were lovely. I like the way the swing around everywhere. I think it’s sad that they’re endangered and they’re losing their habitat in the wild.

After that, we had a talk about biodiversity in the rainforest and how we can help protect the planet, especially the rainforests. Lots of the endangered animals in the zoo come from rainforests but they are getting chopped down and the animals are losing their habitats. Rainforests are important because they produce lots of oxygen and give homes to loads of animals, even some which haven’t been discovered yet! Rainforests are being chopped down to clear space for monocrops like oil palm and grazing cows. The wood is getting used for things like paper and timber. We can help by only buying food and other things with sustainable or no palm oil, eating less meat and making sure paper is recycled or has an FSC logo which means it was produced sustainably. Wood needs to have an FSC logo too. We can also help by buying food with the Fairtrade logo to make sure people get paid a fair price for growing crops sustainably. Climate change is making more and more forest fires happen so we can help by reducing our carbon footprint, for example by trying to use less electricity and trying to use the car less if you can.

Next we had a walk around the zoo with Finn and he told us about all the animals. I was given a chimpanzee adoption for a present and I decided to adopt William!

My Young Conservationist-in-Chief visit to Twycross Zoo was incredible. I loved it all! It made me feel like I want to help wildlife and the planet EVEN more!

Big Canopy Campout

This September we took part in the Big Canopy Campout.

The Big Canopy Campout is an event for tree climbers and everyone who loves forests to celebrate trees and forests and raise money to help them.

You spend the night camping out in or around trees. People around the world join in and lots of people camp high up in trees. We camped under the canopy of our living willow den in our garden.

Every year the Big Canopy Campout raises money for a different organisation to do with protecting trees and forests. This year it raised money for SËRA Foundation (Fundación SËRA), which was started by young Forest Defenders from the indigenous Siekoya Remolino community who live in the rainforest in Ecuador. They’re trying protect their community and the area where they live from deforestation. One of the things they want to do is start a school to teach ancestral knowledge as well as modern skills.

One of the ways they’re raising money is by selling jewellery made by members of the Siekoya Remolino community. We chose a necklace each. We’ve hung them up in our bedroom to remind us to do everything we can to help protect the rainforests. The necklaces also came with postcards and stories drawn by members of the community.

I enjoyed our Big Canopy Campout. It was fun and I especially enjoyed having a campfire. The only problem was that there were loads of wasps flying around the willow den all night and especially in the morning!

Here’s a video of our Big Canopy Campout:

You can donate to SËRA Foundation here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/siekopai-indigenous-amazonian-youth-foundation

Thank you!

More Deposit Return Scheme Campaigning

Last week we went litter picking and we found 86 drinks bottles and cans! We found even more broken bits of glass from drinks bottles that had been smashed.

We used the bottles and cans to write a message: DEPOSIT RETURN NOW!

I think a Deposit Return Scheme is really, really important because it would mean less plastic and other rubbish ending up in the environment and help make sure it would get recycled instead.

You can write to your MP about a Deposit Return Scheme here: https://www.sas.org.uk/depositreturnscheme/

There’s a petition to sign here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/582473

Deposit Return Scheme

I’ve been campaigning for a Deposit Return Scheme to be introduced for drinks containers.

A Deposit Return Scheme would mean that people would have to pay a little bit extra when they buy drinks in containers like bottles, cans or cartons and when they take them for recycling they would get the extra money back. This would be good because it would encourage people to recycle more. At the moment lots of bottles and other containers go into landfill when they could be recycled and lots of them are dropped as litter! When I go litter picking I find lots of drinks containers and I can prove it with this picture!

To make as big a difference as possible, a Deposit Return Scheme needs to be all inclusive, which means it would be for drinks containers of all different sizes and lots of different materials like plastic, glass and metal.

I’ve written a letter to my MP Andrew Mitchell asking him to support an all inclusive Deposit Return Scheme and make sure it happens as soon possible so less rubbish will be thrown into landfill, dropped as litter and end up in the sea when it can be recycled instead.

If you want to help campaign for an all-inclusive Deposit Return Scheme you can write an email to your MP here: https://www.sas.org.uk/depositreturnscheme/

You can sign a petition calling for a Deposit Return Scheme here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/582473.

Thank you!

Plastic Free July 2021

For Plastic Free July this year I made an enormous display board to put outside my house to raise awareness of the impact of unnecessary plastic and tell people about some good alternatives.

One on side of the board I put lots of unnecessary plastic items like a plastic toothbrush, a baby wipe, a plastic bottle, a washing up sponge, a disposable face mask and some cling film. In the middle I wrote the approximate time it takes for each item to break down. It was quite hard to find out the numbers for some items because there hasn’t been time for most plastic in the world to break down yet so it’s difficult to be certain how long it will take. Plastic never disappears completely: it just goes into tiny pieces, which is bad for wildlife because they might eat it and it could make them poorly. On the other side of the board I put some alternatives to the plastic items which are much better for the planet. For example, next to the plastic toothbrush I put a bamboo toothbrush, next to the baby wipe I put a washable flannel, next to the plastic bottle I put a metal drink bottle, next to the washing up sponge I put a reusable bamboo dishcloth and a compostable coconut scrubbing brush, next to the disposable face mask I put a reusable face mask and next to the cling film I put a beeswax wrap.

If you would like some more ideas for how to reduce the amount of plastic you use, please read my article from Plastic Free July 2020, which talks about some of the things I’ve been doing to use less plastic.

Visiting Skomer Island

On Sunday 13th June I visited Skomer Island.

We went on a boat to get there. When we got on the boat there was a sign saying to check your luggage to make sure there weren’t any rats or mice hiding in there! That’s because they don’t live there at the moment and if they got onto the island they might hurt the seabirds. On some other islands with lots of seabirds, introduced predators like rats have caused big problems for seabirds and made numbers go down.

When I was on the boat I felt happy and excited. Quite soon after we left, we started seeing lots of puffins swimming and flying off to catch fish for their young.

Skomer is looked after by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. When we arrived there, there was a lady who talked to us and the other people from our boat. She told us about the wildlife there and she told us that it was really important to stay on the paths because the ground is quite delicate because of all the puffin and Manx shearwater burrows and it might break the burrows if you stand on them.

We went for a walk round the island. We saw lots of puffins! The puffins were coming and going from their burrows. We even saw some going in and out of their burrows and some were walking on the paths! Some puffins were digging. We saw a puffin go into a burrow and lots of mud and soil started to whoosh out! I loved the puffins! I thought they were cute and funny, especially their beaks. My favourite thing was watching them going into their burrows.

We also saw black and brown rabbits. Rabbits are good for the wildlife on Skomer because puffins and Manx shearwaters can use their old burrows and they keep the grass and bushes down so wild flowers can grow and they provide more food for the predators to eat so they might eat them instead of the seabirds. I was excited to see black rabbits!

Other birds we saw were guillemots and razorbills flying around by the sea and nesting on the cliffs. A long way out to sea there were gannets diving for food. Under where the gannets were diving there were dolphins! Mummy and Daddy definitely saw them and I think I saw one too. We also saw lots of seals on the rocks near the sea.

Skomer is extremely important for Manx shearwaters but we didn’t see any because they’re nocturnal. When we were walking around the island we saw some things that looked like cages. I asked the lady about them at the end and she said it is to do with some research being done by Oxford University to learn about how Manx shearwaters use the earth’s magnetic field to find their way around. Scientific research to learn about seabirds is important because it helps us find more and better ways to help them.

Visiting Skomer made me feel even more like I want to help seabirds and sea animals. Puffins are on the Red List for UK birds and they are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Puffins are doing well on Skomer but numbers overall are going down really fast. I think that’s sad because puffins are so nice! Overfishing is a big problem for puffins because it means there isn’t enough food for them. You can help by using the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Good Fish Guide to make sure you only eat sustainable fish and by only buying fish that has a Marine Stewardship Council logo. I don’t eat any fish because I want them to be able to stay in the wild.

Climate change and pollution are also big problems for puffins and other sealife. The day after visiting Skomer my brothers and I did a beach clean at Marloes Sands to try and help sealife. You can help not dropping litter and by litter picking too. You can also help by using less plastic and trying to reuse and recycle as much as you can.

I think Skomer is a lovely and exciting place and I really want to go there again. I want to do everything I can to help seabirds and other sealife.

Please help sealife too. Thank you!

National Children’s Gardening Week: Garden Wildlife Surveys

Here’s my third video for National Children’s Gardening Week, all about how you can help wildlife in your garden. This video is about wildlife surveys you can do in your garden. Getting involved in wildlife surveys is a chance to learn more about the wildlife in your garden and it helps wildlife because it helps us find out how the wildlife is doing.

Here it is!

Here are some links to find out more about the surveys in the video:

Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts
Garden Moth Scheme (GMS)
BTO Garden Birdwatch
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count

I hope you enjoy doing some of these surveys!

National Children’s Gardening Week: Upcycling in the Garden

This week is National Children’s Gardening Week and I’ve been making some videos about helping wildlife in your garden.

My first video was about plants for wildlife.

My second video is about some ideas for upcycling in your garden. Here it is!

I hope you enjoyed watching it and I hope it’s given you some ideas!

National Children’s Gardening Week: Plants for Wildlife

This week is National Children’s Gardening Week. It’s about how fun gardens are for children. I like gardening and I especially like wildlife gardening and trying to make my garden as good for wildlife as possible.

For National Children’s Gardening Week I’m making some videos about my garden.

I have done one so far. It’s about plants that especially help wildlife. It’s called Plants for Wildlife.

You can watch it if you like!

Thank you for helping wildlife in your garden! Look out for my other videos!

World Bee Day

Today is World Bee Day! Bees are really important because we need them to pollinate plants including a lot of the food we eat. But bee numbers are going down and they need help! Here are some things that we have done and you can do to help bees.

Flowers for bees
Flowers are really important for bees because they need them to get pollen and nectar for food. One of the most important things you can do to help bees is plant lots of bee-friendly flowers.

It’s especially important to make sure you’ve got flowers growing for as much of the year as possible so bees can find enough food all year round.

Some of the bee-friendly flowers we’ve planted this year are crocuses, sunflowers, cornflowers, allium, foxgloves, snapdragons, hollyhocks, cosmos, aster and beans. We’ve also made a big flowerbed full of lavender and planted thyme in old pallets.

I’ve taken cuttings from flowering currant, rosemary, honeysuckle, penstemon and blackthorn to try and grow more plants that bees like.

A good way to get more bee friendly plants for your garden is to watch to see how many bees come to different plants then ask if you can take cuttings or collect seeds.

Lots of wildflowers are good for bees. We’ve planted some flowerbeds full of wildflowers in our garden to help bees and other wildlife. Another way to help bees is to leave wildflowers like dandelions, green alkanet, buttercups and dead nettles that grow by themselves instead of weeding them out. When we were weeding our seed trays, I rescued all the red dead nettles and put them in a pot and they look lovely.

We also take part in No Mow May, run by Plantlife. In No Mow May, you have to not mow the lawn for the whole of May. This helps wildflowers grow in your lawn and that’s good for bees.

At the end of No Mow May, you can take part in the Every Flower Counts survey to find out how many bees your lawn can feed. It’s even better to begin in spring and let part of your lawn grow long and not mow it all summer. Last year, the flowers we got growing in our front lawn included bird’s foot trefoil, tufted vetch, common vetch, lady’s mantle, wood avens, bindweed, red clover, white clover, buttercups, groundsel, dandelions, daisies, cat’s ear, mouse ear hawkweed, lesser trefoil, fox and cubs and Welsh poppies. Lots of those flowers are really good for bees.

Water
Bees need water to drink, especially in the summer when it’s hot and dry. You can help by making a bee drinking station. You have to find a tray or shallow bowl and put stones in it for bees to land on to drink. Then you need to put it somewhere sunny in your garden, fill it with water and keep it filled up.

Homes for bees
Another way to help bees is to build a bee house. You need bean poles or special bee tubes about 15cm long or you can drill holes in a block of wood. The tubes or holes need to be between 4mm and 10mm wide and it’s good to have lots of different sizes so different bees can use them. You have to build a box with a roof to keep it dry and fill it with the tubes. Then you need to put it up at least 1m high in a sunny place facing east or southeast. Solitary bees like red mason bees and leaf-cutter bees might come and use a bee house like this to nest in.

Chemicals
Some chemicals like pesticides can be extremely bad for bees and can kill them! So you can help bees and other wildlife by making sure you don’t use chemicals like pesticides and weed killers in your garden.

When you’re shopping you can make sure the food you buy is organic so it’s grown in a way which doesn’t involve chemicals, which can help bees. We get organic veg boxes from Riverford.

Surveys
A good way to learn about bees and help to find out how they’re doing is to take part in bee surveys.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a survey called Bee Walk. You have to plan a route to go for a walk at least once a month from March to October and count how many bumblebees you see.

The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme has a survey called a Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count). It helps find out how numbers of pollinators are changing. You have to find a patch of flowers on a sunny day in between April and September. You need to put down a 50cm by 50cm quadrat (square) and count how many open flowers are in it. Then you have to watch it for 10 minutes and count the pollinators that come to it. You can do this however many times you want to.

You can help bees too if you want!