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All about otters!

Whilst working with a pair of Asian small clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus) for four years previous to my work here at the vivarium, I developed a keen interest and a soft spot for the species, so when at the start of the year I came across an opportunity to get involved with the work of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group I grabbed it, and have since been a part of a team of volunteers helping to produce content for their Facebook and Instagram pages.

The Otter Specialist Group (OSG) is part of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The objective of the group is to coordinate and bring together researchers all over the world to promote global otter conservation.

Source: Mersey Rivers Trust

Like amphibians, otters are present in almost every continent and are also at high risk of extinction, some species more than others. Only 50 years ago, the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), Britain’s only species of otter, came close to extinction and although faring better than many other species of otter, they are still classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN today, and although a rare sight, an otter was spotted in the River Irwell in Salford last year!

The OSG are working to make news and information readily available regarding global otter situations through their Facebook page, Instagram feed and website. We like to have a little fun too! On our Instagram feed, we celebrate otters, championing individuals, organisations and even whole countries that succeed in aiding otter conservation, research and education.

We explore the presence of otters in folklore, art and literature, and share sightings of wild otters across the world, so there’s something to interest, educate and entertain everyone! If you don’t love and appreciate otters already, you will after exploring the below links:

OSG Instagram


OSG Facebook

Call of the Wild

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How can listening to the sounds of nature be a way of sharing and developing our understanding of biodiversity and conservation?

A partnership between Cucusonic https://cucusonic.net/cucusonic a collective of Colombian biological scientists, anthropologists and musicians, the University of Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology and the charity In Place of War is aiming to do just that. The project and network was formed to record a bank of natural and bioacoustic sound recordings from the Neotropical forests of Colombia which were then shared with a team of internationally renowned electronic music producers who were invited to create incredible new music. A resulting new album has been produced and is being released any day now on 31st October from The Vinyl Factory https://thevinylfactory.com

The album features artists, including Bræv, Brian Eno, Coldcut, Fer Isella, Fingathing, Iggor Cavalera, Kate Simko, Laima Leyton, Martyn Ware, Matthew Dear, Mexican Institute of Sound and Osunlade

Call of the Wild: A collaborative project for understanding Biodiversity in Colombia through recording natural sounds and making music.

As part of the upcoming University of Manchester’s Festival of Climate Action – arts/environment event, we will discuss the idea behind the work, that the sounds of habitats and species such as birds, bats and frogs can be heard in different ways: as a measure of biodiversity, as a feature of the cultural imagination of local communities, as a creative resource for musicians to compose with and as a means of connecting to the conservation work of museums.

Join us live in conversation, and live from the Vivarium, to hear more on the project next Thursday (14 October) in the Virtual Climate Gallery (6-7pm) as part of Day 4 (Collaboration) at

The Festival of Climate Action

Early years at Bank Hall

A big thanks to Bank Hall Nursery for inviting me to share Manchester Museum’s education collection of live animals with tots at their 30th anniversary. It was a special day, with fantastic support. The children loved all that had been put together for them to enjoy, which was done with so much thought. It was a pleasure to be apart of and my hope is that my small contribution will go some way to developing an interest in nature that leads them to caring for it in the future.

Continuing to INSPIRE

Last week Manchester Museum closed its doors and will remain closed until late 2022. It’s a major development for us but we will open with a larger, more inspirational, and even more inclusive museum than ever.

We are all working hard behind the scenes to ensure this will be the case, and non more so that our Director, Esme Ward, who’s commitment is our inspiration.

We continued to deliver our live public outputs right up to point when our doors closed last week, with external visits to local children including a visit with the live animals to Chorley’s INSPIRE Youth Group (below).

Don’t worry you can still follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with all the latest developments whist we are closed, and of course here on the frogblog. Our Manchester Museum From Home is also a great place to continue exploring our collections and learning about all our museum objects – and if you would like to visit the Vivarium you can still do so Virtually Here.

Whilst the Vivarium is closed we will be ensuring the animals are well kept and also working on the new Harlequin Toad exhibit, which will be our main exhibit when we re-open and be officially launched by the Ambassador of Panama in 2022. It will be a most stunning exhibit and a full naturalistic replica of the species’ natural habitat in the Santa Fe National Park. This state of the art exhibit will also feature specimen plants and other rare animals from this unusual tropical environment and be the only place in the world outside Panama you will be able to see the unique harlequin frogs that live there.

I promise, it’ll be worth the wait.

Recent teaching at INSPIRE To INSPIRE

BBC Features


BBC Wildlife Magazine Feature 2021

International Orangutan Day

Orang-Hutan translates to Person of the Forest. Today is the annual International Orangutan Day. This international event aims to promote the conservation and welfare of these critically endangered people of the forest so closely related to us and encourage the protection of their habitat. 

There are still approximately 2,000 to 3,000 orangutans being killed annually. Along with this, orangutans have lost over 80% of their natural habitat over the last 20 years.




Natures Rights – Who cares?

What are ‘Nature’s Rights’, and who is prepared to stand up for them? 

My guest in conversation for this Podcast is Dr Martha Dietrich, Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.

As you will know, here at the museum our team’s work focuses on wildlife conservation, specifically amphibians, with the Vivarium being home to many critically endangered species, including the Harlequin frog, and a number of rare species from Ecuador.

In 2008, amendments were made to the Ecuadorian constitution to integrate nonhuman claimants into judicial processes, and Martha’s research in the country has examined the practical application – debates and outcomes – of nature’s rights claims in the court of law. Most recently she has been involved in a ground-breaking case brought against the Ecuadorian state to stop the copper mining company, Codelco, from exploration work in the Intag region of Ecuador, an area with a high number of endangered frog species.

These frogs brought our two worlds together and today we discuss what this case could mean for the future rights of the natural world, and humanity caring for it.

Click the image below and scroll down the page to join our conversation.


Ecologist Article

Vapid Vapers treat Manchester like a toilet

Just home from work, with a sick feeling in my stomach. I had to write this before I can even eat. I spent the last 25 years trying my best to inspire a care and commitment to the environment, globally, but with the majority of work at Manchester Museum being aimed at supporting the local community in Manchester to be more social responsibly aware.

It’s heartwarming when you witness the positive results, of which there are many, but it seems there will always be some elements of our society that just can’t be reached. Tonight the adults in the car in front of me, just a stones throw from the University (literally a couple of streets away), launched their empty McDonnalds cup from their window. They had 2 small children in the back.

And this is not a one off, as many of the streets in Manchester can bear witness to. It makes me ashamed to be a human being, I know many other animals that are much cleaner. Those (*uneducated people) that litter our planet don’t think twice, they have NO respect at all, for anything. And this is what they are teaching their children as we try hard to help them learn a different way to live.

As I looked out of my car, the number of discarded vape bottles littering the street around me was unbelievable. The recording below is just down one side and does not go half way to showing the extent of the litter down this road as an example of some of the roads near Manchester City Centre. It’s not easy to miss and seemed to get worse the further I went.

Heartbreaking and absolutely disgusting to see..

(In some ways I have to be politically correct in my wording here but I hope you understand where I am coming from).

How many Vape bottles can you spot?

Love of Nature

This week I received a lovely surprise from my friend John Hamilton – a copy of his new book ‘The girl who really really really loves Nature‘ with a special dedication too me in the front. I am so chuffed and thanked John so very much.

Available from all good booksellers: ISBN 978 0 565 09509 3

John has been a practising artist for over 20 years and recently completed an MA in Children’s Book Illustration. His work has been exhibited widely across the UK and in USA and he has work in private collections in the UK, Australia, Germany, Cyprus and USA.

This is a wonderful children’s book about exploring nature and is about Lara who goes exploring with her trusty bucket. Lara loves nature – she’s nuts about nature. She explores her back garden with her dog Cassie, and discovers bird’s nests, caterpillars, worms and snails. But she really really really wants to learn more about the mysterious creatures she finds at the pond…

John Hamilton Artist

Hazel dormice – back on our map!

Dormouse on release day : Clare Pengelly

The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is an arboreal species of mouse which is golden brown in appearance with a feathery tail and is native to the UK. The dormouse is a charismatic species, known for dozing in a ball throughout the day in neat circular nests with their tails tucked over their heads. Unfortunately they are considered a vulnerable species in the UK as populations have halved in the last 20 years.

Over the last two months, with the support of Manchester museum vivarium, I have been lucky enough to get involved with a hazel dormouse reintroduction project in my local area. The project is a collaboration between the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Natural England, the Morecambe Bay Partnership and the University of Cumbria’s Back on our Map project.

Volunteers checking for suitable habitat for nest box installation : Bethany Dean

The project brought 30 hazel dormice to an undisclosed location in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB in Lancashire which were bred in captivity, raised and quarantined at London Zoo ready for reintroduction last month. During the quarantine period, the health of the dormice was monitored and they were checked for any disease or parasites to ensure the mice were in fighting fit condition on their release.

Dormouse nest box and footprint tunnel : Bethany Dean

The habitat was specially chosen for its promising qualities of dense tree canopy, habitat connectivity and the presence of a variety of tree species that dormice show a particular preference for, including hazel and rowan trees. In preparation for the reintroduction, a team of volunteers including myself helped to install 200 dormouse nest boxes across the reintroduction area.

The nest boxes ensure the dormice have immediate resources for nest building and to enable close monitoring of the dormouse population by licensed project staff and volunteers. Footprint tunnels were also installed close to the nest boxes as a further measure to help understand their movements in their new habitat.

This is the first of two hazel dormouse releases planned for the area, the plan being that by next summer 80 dormice may have been released into the area. I for one am excited to see how the population develops and am hopeful for a future with dormice back in my local area where they belong!

Back on our map

Peoples trust for endangered species

Duke of Burgundy

Morecambe bay partnership