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Animal research to come under spotlight at prestigious national conference

Giant African Spurred Tortoise

Research about one of the planet’s longest-lived animals will take centre-stage at a prestigious national conference next week, thanks to a two month study which took place at the Lake District Wildlife Park near Keswick.

Whitehaven resident and University of Bolton student Sam Long gathered extensive data at the Park last summer, as part of a study into African Spurred Tortoises.

Next week his research will be shared with an audience of around 120 zoo keepers, wildlife professionals and academics at the annual BIAZA (British & Association of Zoos & Aquariums) Research Conference, taking place at the Welsh Mountain Zoo from 8 to10 July 2019.

The Lake District Wildlife Park is home to six Giant African Spurred Tortoises, which are the third-largest species of tortoise in the world and live to around 70 years old.

Sam, who is an undergraduate BSc Biology student at the University of Bolton, spent around 120 hours studying the tortoises at the Wildlife Park, as part of an investigation into how colour affects their food choice and activity. Using coloured cones, he observed their use of space and foraging behaviours over a two month period.

Sam says, “Coming from Cumbria, it was fantastic to explore the exotic animals living on my own doorstep. It was an invaluable opportunity to learn more about animal behaviour and to collect first-hand evidence for my final year dissertation. I’m extremely honoured that my research will be one of the studies being highlighted as part of the BIAZA Research Conference.”

There are also two other research projects currently underway at the Lake District Wildlife Park.  Long-term volunteer Annabel Looker is doing a study about the behaviour of lemurs. Meanwhile, Keith White, a mature student at Oxford Brookes University, is observing and researching the behavioural differences between Lar Gibbons in the wild and in captivity.

The Wildlife Park is famously home to 56 year old Brian, who is one of Europe’s oldest Lar Gibbons and became an internet sensation in 2015 thanks to an admiring visitor uploading his entertaining dance moves on YouTube.

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