The highest standards of animal welfare will be maintained at the new £3.65 Million Zoological Education Centre now underway at Shuttleworth College on the Old Warden Estate near Biggleswade.
Bringing the Amazon and The Outback to Bedfordshire, Shuttleworth College’s ZEC will be the only Further Education centre in the UK to have a specially-designed biome for housing tropical creatures from around the world. The unit will follow an “Evolutionary Pathway” along which students will learn how to look after every “order” of the animal kingdom. It will include an aquatic room, bird flight area and outside paddocks for the bigger animals.
This highly specialised training which young people can undertake at The Bedford College Group facility will prepare them to follow the trails cut by earlier students who are now working in prestigious zoos and conservation centres.
Carl Groombridge, Centre Curator said: “The facility will allow us to expand the range of animals we have here. For example we already have some caiman small-sized crocodilians, but will now have Mississippi alligators too in their own pool.
“We are already part of an international conservation and educational network, but this new facility will put us firmly on the world map. For me it is a dream come true.”
Carl and team have been working closely with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) which owns London and Whipsnade zoos, to create an environment where animal welfare is paramount.
For Designcubed architects Stephen Blowers and Rob Starnes the project brings with it many extra challenges – designing an environment for wild animals as well as the staff and students means mitigating risks posed by handling and issues of bio-security to avoid cross-contamination.
“The new Zoological Education Centre has been designed with strong biosecurity segregation whilst housing a wide range of species. The centre has the potential to provide class leading enclosures including a pioneering tropical biosphere with lightweight ETFE roof, allowing for learners of all disciplines to study natural sciences. We have been delighted to develop the centre in close collaboration and with the support of ZSL, Carl and his team, to allow for quality training to industry standards. The new centre will allow opportunities to gain more standing within the educational community for higher education and authoritative bodies.”
As the construction crews start work on preparing the site, Rob and Stephen are adding the finishing touches to design features in conjunction with Carl and his team. Between now and the opening of the new centre to students in September 2019, the animals from the existing units will have to be moved and settled in to their new home.
“It will be the animals going in two by two,” said Carl.