Wildwood is celebrating the long awaited opening of its new Nocturnal House; a specially designed centre that will allow visitors to see animals that would usually be sound asleep during opening hours.
The building, Funded by Biffa Award, is part of a larger project to expand Wildwood's work to conserve the hazel dormouse and offers visitors a rare opportunity to observe hazel dormice and other nocturnal small mammals for the first time, and to increase awareness of the conservation threats faced by these animals and how we can address them.
Visitors will be able to see rare and endangered small mammals that are otherwise very difficult to see during daylight hours such as hazel dormice, hedgehogs, wood mice and edible dormice.
The Nocturnal House is Wildwood's most ambitious project yet and the complex design of the building combined with the needs of the animals meant that the project had its fair share of setbacks. The building itself was completed at the end of 2012 but thanks to our unusually cold spring, it had to wait for its inhabitants to wake up from an extended hibernation period. Then the animals needed a period of adjustment in order to get used to being awake during the daytime as building features a unique lighting system that simulates daylight overnight and then fades to darkness during the days, but finally the building and animals are ready for visitors to the park.
Wildwood's CEO Peter Smith said; "We are thrilled with the new Nocturnal House, and the team have persevered to get this complicated project up and running. It's great for Wildwood, as although most people have heard of dormice, few people will ever see one. Now we can educate people about these beautiful creatures and why it is so vital that we save them from extinction"
Sally Barnes, of Wildwood's Keeper team, who has been looking after the Nocturnal House said "The building is great, with spacious natural enclosures and the lighting system is working extremely well, we have already had many delighted customers who have seen their first ever dormouse, which is really exciting."
The Biffa Award grant also included funded the building of new dormouse breeding enclosures to expand Wildwood's capacity for breeding hazel dormice for reintroduction programmes. Over the course of the project 32 hazel dormice have been bred at the park, some of which will remain at Wildwood to boost the Trust's captive breeding population at Wildwood, with the others being reintroduced to areas of the UK where they have become extinct in releases facilitated by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species.
The nocturnal house will also be used during Wildwood's conservation training courses, such as dormouse ecology and conservation, to give people the opportunity to observe these creatures as they would be in the wild, and improve their skills in species identification.
Visitors can see the new Nocturnal House opposite the Rat Barn on their next visit to the park.
Viewing tips for the Nocturnal House:
- Walk in slowly - it's dark inside!
- Let your eyes adjust for a few minutes - you will be able to see better.
- No loud noises or flash photography please - these are shy, night-time animals that can be easily scared.