As part of The Bedford College Group’s capital investment programme, Shuttleworth College provides a modern environment for students to learn within the new £4m Zoological Education Centre (ZEC) that opened to students in September 2019.
The ZEC brings the Amazon and the Outback to the Shuttleworth College campus, transporting students and visitors to the wild to create a truly immersive experience, allowing students to engage with the modern learning environment and develop hands-on skills with a range of species. The ZEC is one of the only of its kind, within a further education setting, to offer a state-of-the-art tropical biome which houses a wide variety of species – including birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals – in environments that replicate their natural habitat.
The ZEC promotes strong links to conservation awareness and regularly encourages small-scale research amongst students and staff. Sustainability is a focus for the ZEC, whilst they are incorporating the growing of animal feed and effective waste management systems with the long-term vision of minimal waste provision.
Staff at the ZEC aim to inspire the naturalists of the future, who will go out into the world and make a difference conserving and preserving the natural world.
Carl Groombridge, Centre curator and lecturer at Shuttleworth College, said the Zoological Education Centre is a ‘dream come true’ and describes the excitement of seeing ‘students and visitors walking through the tropical rainforest and smelling a coffee tree whilst listening to the beautiful song of a tropical starling or observing a hummingbird darting back and forth whilst feeding from a honeysuckle bush’.
In June 2021, the ZEC applied for a zoo licence which will further enable students to work towards saving endangered species and confirm the status of the ZEC as a learning environment to a standard that prepares students to work in zoos or conservation projects around the world. The ZEC is not a public visitor attraction.
The Zoological Education Centre houses a range of species within a modern zoological setting that allows animals to enjoy an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible, whilst students gain animal care skills ready for the workplace such as zoos, animal rescue centres, veterinary practices, and conservation projects.
Amphibians are some of the world’s most threatened species due to diseases and destruction of their natural habitats. The ZEC houses over 50 amphibian species.
Some of the popular species include the Giant African Bull Frog, which are being studied by Level 3 Animal Sciences students to discover alternate methods of survival, and the Aquatic Blue Caecilian which is housed within the rainforest environment. Meanwhile, Giant Cane Toads can be found in the dedicated amphibian room, whilst Salamanders can be seen hidden in the undergrowth.
The state-of-the-art tropical biome is home to birds from across the world, from small tropical finches to the brightly-coloured lorikeets of Australasia and parrots and parakeets from South America.
It is not just small species, as the ZEC also houses larger birds such as the great flightless birds emus and greater rheas.
The College also supports a range of reptilian species including tortoises and turtles. Students are able to work with the college mascot, ‘Pig Nose’, who is a Fly River Turtle, the closest species to a fresh-water sea turtle, from Australasia and Indonesia.
Large lizards and crocodilian species are also located within the ZEC. These reptiles are valuable in enabling the students to learn and gain industry experience to tackle modern challenges of mixed collections in which animals from the same climate and countries can be housed together.
The Common Marmoset also enjoys life at the ZEC, where students study the behaviours and enrich the lives of these intelligent South American primates.
We also have…
Invertebrates, Crustaceans and Molluscs.
The weird and wonderful world of invertebrates is supported at the ZEC, where giant arachnids and millipedes are housed. This allows students to appreciate and learn about species that live deep in the undergrowth of desert regions. In addition, the ZEC houses a range of snails including the Malaysian Jungle Nymph, and various crab species, including the Hermit Crab.
The ZEC accommodates a wide range of mammals such as marmosets, lemurs, and rodents. The ZEC has been specially adapted to allow students opportunities to observe nocturnal mammals including kinkajou, sugar gliders, fruit bats and Madagascan tenrec.
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