Local child to open new Zoo exhibit

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One talented local youngster will win the chance to open a new exhibit at Paignton Zoo – but they won’t know it until the day.

Paignton Zoo’s new invertebrate exhibit opens on Wednesday 28th May, during half term. The honours will be done by the winner of a competition to design a super bug.

Katherine Sobey from Paignton Zoo said: “There are three categories – 6 and under, 7 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years. Two finalists will be selected from each category, will win a family ticket to Paignton Zoo and be invited to the official opening. On the day one entrant will be awarded first prize and the honour of opening Investigate!”

The Zoo is running the art competition with Palm FM, who will be broadcasting live from Paignton Zoo on the day.

To help launch the new exhibit, Paignton Zoo has made half term Insect Week. On Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th May you’ll be able to meet a variety of visiting invert experts and discover more about insects, plants and biodiversity. On Monday 26th May there will be an edible bugs challenge, while on Tuesday 27th you’ll be able to venture onto the Zoo’s leafy Nature Trail and take part in pond-dipping to discover the hidden world of creatures beneath the water. Also on Wednesday 28th May there will be the chance to create your own graffiti art.

Investigate is an unusual new attraction devoted to invertebrates – animals with no backbone. Butterflies, beetles, woodlice, worms, clams, crabs, octopus, snails and starfish are all invertebrates – in fact, about 97% of species are. So what have invertebrates ever done for us? Well, as it turns out, they’ve done lots, inspiring inventions and innovations in everything from engineering and design to medicine and computing.

Mike Bungard, Paignton Zoo’s Curator of Lower Vertebrates & Invertebrates, said: “This is one zoo exhibit that isn’t about conservation or ecology – it’s about technology and inspiration. It’s about the public understanding of science. It’s about how remarkable inverts are. We hope everyone will investigate incredible invertebrates!”

In this modest but suitably futuristic room you’ll find ants, spiders, scorpions and stick insects representing different principles and discoveries for which we have invertebrates to thank.

Mike, who has been working with invertebrates for 15 years, adds: “There are so many wonders of the invert world. Termite mounds create their own cooling breeze – this has inspired architects to design greener, self-cooling buildings. Namib beetles collect water from overnight fogs in the desert thanks to the shape of their bodies. This adaptation has been used in the design of a bottle that collects its own water.

“The behaviour of ants has inspired algorithms used by social networking sites – these mathematical formulas work out a predicted response from a variety of inputs. So it’s thanks to ants that, when you shop on the internet, you get offered ‘other things you might like’ or on social networking sites you get ‘friends you may know’.

“Inverts have inspired architecture, medicine and technology. They have helped to shape our world. They aren’t pests, they are essential to our modern way of life!”

The exhibit is in part a tribute to the late Dr David Stradling, who was a trustee and chairman of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust. “He was an enthusiastic and inspiring advocate for invertebrates,” says Mike.

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 0844 474 2222.


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