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Naturalists in South Devon are holding a 24-hour race to find and identify native species.

The BioBlitz – which will bring together school children, visitors, wildlife enthusiasts and expert naturalists – is being held at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park.

But aren’t zoos all about lions, tigers and rhinos? Tracey Hamston is the UK Conservation Officer for Paignton Zoo’s parent charity, the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust: “We do a lot of work with native species - dormice, crayfish, cirl buntings, whitebeam. This is a great chance for us to turn the spotlight on British wildlife.”

The hunt will take place in the Zoo grounds and in the charity’s two local nature reserves, Primley Park and Clennon Gorge. It starts at midday on Friday 22nd June and runs until midday on Saturday 23rd June, with both daytime and evening sessions.

This is the Zoo’s first ever BioBlitz, so organiser Samantha Branch is a tad nervous: “A BioBlitz is a concentrated effort to find and identify local plants and animals. We want to highlight our local biodiversity and how important it is to everyone. This is an ambitious event – loads of people can get involved searching for plants, birds, bugs and butterflies.”

Tracey again: “Local schools and the Zoo’s two junior clubs - the Gibbon Club and Gorilla Guerrillas – will join in the fun. And we’ll be supported by scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, experts from the Torquay Natural History Museum and local naturalists.”

The Zoo’s Education Centre will be at the heart of the event, with classrooms equipped with identification aids including field guides and microscopes.

On the Friday evening there will be an after-hours session at the Zoo, with activities including pond dipping, bat detecting and moth hunting before people settle down in a purpose-built hide to watch wild badgers.

The next morning – if you are still awake - you will be able to help experts working to survey Primley Park. Tracey: “It’s going to be exciting and unpredictable. Some of us will be sleeping on site – but I’ll probably want to stay awake all night!”

Primley Park is free to enter. Standard admission prices apply for Paignton Zoo.
To book tickets for the Friday evening, call 01803 697500. Places are limited to 20 and you must be over 12 years old. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk.

Quotes Loads to see and do, for a full day out. Quotes