Last week a very prestigious award was given to an extremely dedicated zoo for the conservation of an animal and its subsequent reintroduction to the wild and a healthy population. BIAZA awarded the Gold award to Chessington world of Adventures for their dedicated work to the species.
As you can imagine the press went wild about this, but not in a good way……
We had headlines such as ‘Hundreds of MASSIVE spiders have been set free in the UK’, ‘Hundreds of giant spiders which can grow as big as mice released in the UK’ and my personal favourite of ‘Whose bright idea was this? Chessington World of Adventures release 400 of the UK’s largest spider into the wild’. Not a great start to such a successful reintroduction programme.
Yes the introduction species happened to be a rare spider in the UK, and this is what upsets me; papers are choosing to paint these animals in bad light and hope that the sensationalism of ‘giant’ spiders will be enough of a story. Why not run the story of dedicated zoo keepers working to save the Fen Raft spider and bring it back to a healthy population. The zoo has been working since 2011 to help these spiders, which are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, due to their high risk of extinction in the wild.
With Zoos having a hard time in the press recently, with Blackfish and the shooting at Cincinnati Zoo, a breeding programme that has been so successful, the population has doubled leading to no longer needing to rear the animals in captivity should be celebrated. Papers need to take responsibility in what they present; they sensationalize the already exceptional story, leading people to miss the entire point (along with an annoying habit of printing entire fiction when it comes to some invertebrate, but that’s for another day).
People will remember spiders as big as mice*, not that they where near extinction in the wild and this needs to stop. Invertebrates are crucial to humans if we want to survive and the most of the planets ecosystems have them playing major roles, isn’t it time to stop fear mongering about them. I’m not calling for every person to go out and hug a spider, but to appreciate that we saved a species, don’t comment saying we should ‘kill it with fire’ or other horrible death threats. Appreciate spiders, and when we save one from the brink of extinction we should celebrate it the same as saving a large mammal from the same fate. The people who saved these spiders put their heart and souls into doing so, let this species and their work, have their moment in the limelight.
Spiders are fascinating animals, there worlds are so alienated from ours you can never be bored by their behaviour or biology. A celebration of these animals is occurring for this project, paired with National Insect week we should be encouraged by Chessington’s hard work to save these animals. Spend the day looking down and seeing the big picture of these micro habitats, you will not be disappointed.
*Please not that they are not the size of mice.
Please be aware that all photo are from Chessington world of adventures press release.
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