Denmark and Sweden Visits!

Today I must make a special entry to highlight some of the places I visited whilst in Denmark and Sweden over the past week, and to say a special thanks to the people I have met. Firstly, I would really like thank Søren Werther for kindly inviting me to Denmark in the first instance and I hope my contribution to the amphibian meeting he organised in Copenhagen lived up to what was expected. Søren helps on many conservation projects and is a really super guy. During my time in Denmark I also met some other great people completely committed to animal welfare, husbandry, and conservation:  

blue poison-dart frogCopenhagen Zoo: Here I met the Curator and some very experienced keepers. Lars Jensen from the reptile and amphibian section kindly showed me the animals behind the scenes and explained what they doing to help conserve native species of amphibians and how they are also breeding tropical species such as Blue poison-dart frogs (pictured). Jacob, their enthusiastic entomologist and invertebrate keeper, also showed me his collection, which was great to see. The Curator showed me the education department in detail and introduced me to Allan Maeland, the head of the section. It was really interesting for me to see and hear how important the section was to the zoo and I must say that the department was absolutely brilliant. Here, a wide range of animals were maintained actually in the education department by specialist keepers and educators.  All the cages, tanks, etc were on wheels so they could be moved to each area and they even had a special food prep and veterinarian section within the learning zone. It was pleasure to see.  Many thanks to all at the zoo for their time and sharing their experience.

http://uk.zoo.dk/VisitZoo.aspx

Universeum in Gothenburg: bicolorThe Universeum is the most amazing public science centre I have ever seen, it  absolutely took my breath away. The 7000 square metre centre is the brainchild of Jan Westin, who met me and kindly showed me all around. It is divided in about six sections each containing a wide variety of fish, insects, reptiles and amphibians in superb conditions. I just couldn’t believe how natural the indoor rainforest section of the centre was – they even had loads of poison-dart frogs, such as dendrobates pumilio roaming free and highly visible. The facilities for keeping animals here is second to none. Johan, their extremely experienced herpetologist, showed the back of house facilities, which include strict quarantine and veterinarian sections. Off display they had some Phyllomedusa bicolor (pictured), which was of particular interest. I was am sure Johan will breed them soon given his wealth of experience. Many thanks Jan and Johan, it was a pleasure.

http://www.universeum.se/index.php?lang=en

viridisNorden’s Ark, Sweden: Until visiting, I never knew that a place like Norden’s Ark existed. Nordens Ark is no zoo – it is a very special non-profit foundation that focuses on the conservation of endangered animals. Many miles from civilisation, Nordens Ark breeding conservation centre is situated in the heart of bohuslan on the Swedish west coast. They own a huge expanse of natural countryside where they maintain up to 80 species of endangered animals. The enclosures for many of the animals, which include many european species and others which suit the climate, are literally fenced off areas of forest and mountains. It is absolutely incredible to be there and see the likes of snow leopard, wolf, amur tigers, lynx and many old nordic native breeds in such surroundings.  Apart from the mammals, they are also breeding and releasing many native amphibians such as Natterjacks and green toads (pictured). I would just like to say a big thanks to Claes Andren,  their Scientific Director for inviting me to experience Norden’s Ark and also Kristofer and all the staff who made my visit so memorable. I look forward to working with you in the future. For anyone visiting Sweden, I would highly recommend visiting and partaking in some of the wonderful activities on offer: http://www.nordensark.se/en/konferens-hotell/aktiviteter/      

Nordens Ark: http://www.nordensark.se/en/  

To watch some video clips of my visit to Norway and Sweden that relate to the above, please see the ‘LIVE’ section at the top of the page.

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Fire-bellied Toad conservation

Today I met Lene Rasmussen, a really committed Danish amphibian conservationist. She is heading a conservation initiative for Fire-bellied Toads (Bombina bombina) on behalf of Copenhagen Zoo, which includes raising tadpoles in captivity at the Zoo and then releasing the young into original habitat. Working with colleagues, she has reared and released over 1000 of the native amphibians this year alone. I was shown around the Zoo’s amphibian collection by Lars Jensen, a very experienced reptile and amphibian keeper who has been working at the Zoo for over 7 years. In this video Lars explains how they raise young toads, including Fire-bellies and Natterjacks. To see the other amphibians maintained behind the scenes at Copenhagen Zoo.

See: http://www.life-bombina.de/index.php?id=18&L=3

Rainforest Exhibition at Copenhagen Museum

Today I visited a really wonderful exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen that focuses on several tribes of indians from Venezuela. It was absolutely brilliant to see the way they had integrated the objects with the back-lit graphic panels and other visual, audio, and super interactive displays, it was a sensory feast! I would urge anyone visiting Denmark to go and see the ‘Indians of the Rainforest’ exhibition before it finishes at the end of February next year. I believe it’s a travelling exhibition, but am not sure where it goes next, so keep your ears open for the chance to see it in the future. Here is a short video clip I filmed which covers a fraction of the exhibition but gives a flavour of just how amazing this vibrant labyrinth is.

See: http://www.natmus.dk/sw67640.asp

Visit to Scandinavia

For the next week or so I will be in Scandinavia, visiting Denmark to lecture at an amphibian meeting at the University of Copenhagen, and also travelling to the wonderful Norden’s Ark in Sweden to discuss amphibian conservation. I hope to report back directly via video on our ‘Live’ page,  so anyone who might like see or hear of a specific thing of interest please let me know I’ll be more than happy to oblige.  The Nordic amphibian meeting, which was established 6 years ago by Soren Werther and others from the Swedish Dendrobate Society, attracts herpetologists from all over Scandinavia. I know we get quite a few Scandinavian visitors to the blog, and for those who are going to the meeting in Copenhagen, I very much look forward to meeting you.  

Nordic amphibian meeting: http://www.nhf.dk/nhf/index.php

Norden’s Ark: http://www.nordensark.se/en/about-nordens-ark/

Valley School visit

valley school visitI just wanted to mention a word or two about a wonderful teaching session that’s taken place at the museum, it was brilliant. We had children visit us again from Valley School in Stockport, which is a special school for children with severe and complex learning and physical dificulties. Having different activities tailored to meet their individual  needs, the children really seemed to get alot from the live animal session. I did too, for conducting it thoroughly made my day. I would also like to thank our Steve Devine for responding so quickly and making time to catch some magic moments with his camera (picture right). Cheers Steve, and thanks alot for all your help with the filming and the blog in general.

Moston Steps Programme

During the past month we have become involved with Moston Steps, a complimentary education programme for young people who are not in mainstream education. I was approached by Andrea Winn, our Curator of community exhibitions, who, together with our Rebecca Machin, are helping support a group of young people to produce their own exhibition. The idea is that whilst developing many of their skills, they get the opportunity to interact with others and use objects from the museums collections.  When I heard about it I thought it sounded like a great initiative and one I would love to be involved in.  Well, after our first introductions it was time to introduce some of our animals. Our first meeting went down superbly and it was brilliant to meet all concerned in the project. Many strange faces were pulled during the session…and some big smiles. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone again soon and will be following the exhibition production with great interest. I’ll keep you posted on how things are going and when the exhibition is due to open at the North City Library. And to everyone involved – Keep up the good work!!

Vivarium ‘Live’

Anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes in the vivarium may want to check out a clip filmed minutes ago on Steve’s phone. After the response of the Iguana footage shown live, we thought it might be a nice idea to give a quick overview of a few other animals we have in the collection and what’s going on so you can ask us some questions and have them answered live. It’s not great quality and also not exhaustive, but hopefully there is enough to let you know what we’re doing. So, literally anything you would like to see or find out about please just get in touch and we’ll make a short video clip and try and answer as many of your questions as possible. Your answer will also feature on Youtube and in the ‘Live’ section (at the top of the blog).

Of course I can’t talk about all these different species without mentioning the author of The Origin of The Species – Charles Darwin, and our superb new exhibition based on his life, which opens tomorrow:  (http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/whatson/exhibitions/theevolutionist/)