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Young Explorers!

It was all smiles yesterday at Manchester Royal’s Childrens Hospital nursery when I took a range of our   live animals over to pay a surprise visit. The special session was organized by Denise Hamilton, their Education Manager, and it proved a real delight for over 40 tiny tots aged 3+


I was joined by my colleague Elaine Bates, and between us we took a variety of animals from the museum’s collections for the youngsters to explore – including live snakes, lizards and frogs. Sophie Tyrrell, a freelance teacher who delivers the early years explorer programme at the Museum also joined us and was great with the kids. Sophie and Elaine entertained the children with super animal stories and craft activities whilst I taught the children with a good selection of creatures from the Vivarium. Doing the session for the tiny tots was brilliant, and seeing their faces light up when they saw and touched the animals was just the best.

Manchester Museum has developed a very special animal-based Early Years learning programme all around the use of its natural history collection. Elaine Bates, who is our Early Years Coordinator has done a wonderful job over the past 6 years to develop such sessions and is a real asset to our Learning Team.

I would very much like to thank Sophie & Steve Allen, the photographer, for yesterday, and especially Elaine for the valued support with this visit. She deserves much credit for the wonderful work she continues to develop with the Early Years Programme at the Manchester Museum, including animal explorers and dinosaur explorers.

Below are some photos of yesterday, and should anyone want to find out more about the superb work of our Learning Team, and indeed book a school session with us, please follow the link below:





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To make a booking, ring Jill Anderton, our bookings coordinator on 0161 275 2630

We also hold baby explorer sessions ( for parents with babies who aren’t walking yet) every other Tuesday @ 12.15 and 1.45. The next session is on 26 June.



An Artist’s W Easel

At the moment I’m looking after an orphaned baby weasel that was brought back to life from the very brink of death. It’s such an amazing little creature and one that gives me great pleasure to care for. Many of the blog followers will already know that I also have a real interest in small mammals, and especially Mustelids, so I guess this won’t come as any great surprise.

Well, the little fellow is doing well, and is also not so far off being ready for release after he started eating raw meat just a few days ago. I also need to get him used to having less contact with humans and to let his wild side take over – which he’ll do naturally very soon I can assure you! However, before that happens I thought it would be good to invite Nigel Artingstall to take look and photograph him.

Stoat, Painting by Nigel Artingstall

Nigel has got to be my favourite wildlife artist, and he also lives nearby. Although Nigel has painted many British mammals, including a stoat (pictured), he’s not previously had the opportunity to get close to its relative, a weasel.

Nigel’s paintings are just superb, and are so detailed and accurate they appear photo realistic. I invite all to take a look at his outstanding work and judge his talent for themselves. After exhibiting in galleries throughout the UK, Nigel’s talent is now being well-recognised worldwide – his highly detailed paintings have recently been selling at the Royal Acadamy of Art in London and are now being sought after and collected both here and abroad.


Cheshire Tortoise Day

The 11th annual Cheshire Tortoise Day was held at the Village Hall, Mottram St. Andrew, near Alderley Edge, Cheshire. This superb event organised by the Cheshire Group of the BCG is certainly gaining in popularity and this year it has attracted over 600 visitors, including families, tortoise owners, reptile enthusiasts and vets.

This year the Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic at Ashleigh Veterinary Centre in Manchester participated and a team of 3 vets and 2 veterinary nurses led by Aidan Raftery along with the Cheshire group were kept extremely busy with giving advice on veterinary care, nail and beak clipping, faecal sampling and instrument sexing of tortoises. Over 160 tortoises were examined. Species were T. horsfieldi, T graeca, T hermanni, G.carbonaria and G.pardalis of various ages. The heaviest tortoise was a T.graeca weighing in at 5 Kg! Other attractions were a display of 7 species of chelonia, each in covered spacious display cages. Species for visitors to see were G.pardalis, T graeca , horsfieldi, marginata and hermanni along with carolina and ornate box turtles.

There has been some very positive feedback on the day emphasising the educational, veterinary, and natural history aspects of chelonian and allied subjects as well as it being made a fun day for all by the organisers.  Anne Campbell and all the organisers wish to thank Ashleigh Veterinarian Centre and the other many volunteers and supporters whose enthusiasm and generosity made this 11th event very special. Funds from the Cheshire Tortoise Day together with matching funds kindly donated by Barclay’s Bank UK will contribute to chelonian conservation projects worldwide.


The 2013 event has already been booked and a date for your diary will be 18th May 2013 at the same venue. Further details will be available in early 2013 from Anne 07891283753. Email:  anne.tortuga@btinternet.com or Julia 01260 270307


Latest update from George!

Rhacophorus norhayatii (C) George Madani

“I have been keeping busy with ongoing fieldwork on an assortment of projects, frogs of course taking precedence. And in fact I have only just returned from Borneo! My word, what an incredible place!! I was there for a month and being across the Wallace line was both a thrill and a challenge!


Everything was new and to be perfectly honest the staggering diversity, the unfamiliarity of EVERYTHING and the dozens and dozens of gleaming pairs of eyeshine in the beam of my headlamp requiring investigation was almost overwhelming!! In the end I saw over 50 species of frog which amounts to about a third of the islands frog fauna. There were tree climbing toads, strange horned toads, puddle frogs that lived and bred in the footprints of elephants, guardian frogs that carry their tadpoles on their back and of course the classic and exceptional flying frogs!!!

Colugo (Flying Lemur) Cyanocephalus variegates, with young (c) George Madani

Then there were all the birds and mammals and reptiles!!! Obscure and wonderful creatures you read about as a child with only the faintest hopes of one day glimpsing in the wild. All manner of wildlife superbly adapted to living in the canopy, their bodies modified, contorted and stretched so that they never need come to ground. Flying frogs, dragons, geckos, snakes and the plethora of flying squirrels both giant and small! I even managed to spot a pygmy flying squirrel species which is only known from the type specimen!! Other animals were just down right weird. Arcane scaly pangolins, nocturnal primates of ancient lineage and the highly distinctive and unique colugo! Also known as the flying lemur (its not), there are only two extant representatives in the entire order Dermoptera!!!

The absolute highlight however came so unexpectedly on the last night in the form of a rattling woodpecker type call emitted from high above a pond formed in the hole left by an overturned tree. With very distinctive and tempting froggy eyeshine reflected from 10m high, I was lured up a slippery jungle tree entangled in vines and up into the canopy to claim my prize. The branches got thinner as the awareness of my body weight became more apparent and there it was so close yet so far, an elusive flying frog!! In desperation I began throwing the nuts growing on the tree at the frog when one struck nearby and suddenly with grace and ease my little friend outstretched the dazzling and brightly coloured webbing between its fingers and toes and aimed for land. I have never descended a tree faster. What at first I thought was the rare and seldom seen in Borneo, Rhacophorus reinwardtii turned out to be (with some follow up research) Rhacophorus norhayatii!! This species was split from R. reinwardtii and described formally in 2010. The most exciting thing however is that R.norhayatii is only described from peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand and here it was in Borneo!! A first!!

Borneo is definetly a place I would recommend to any naturalist. My travels were limited to Malaysian North Borneo and I found the people to be very friendly and obliging and getting around was fairly straightforward. Fortunately there are also still many reserves and protected areas of jungle too. You should go!”

George Madani, June 2012.


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