Here in the countryside of Bedfordshire, exotic animals are being saved from extinction by the expertise of staff and students at Shuttleworth College.
The new Zoological Education Centre has been said to be an “exemplary” model of training for the conservation of endangered species.
Among the rare species are Red Necked Turtles, such as the one seen here encouraged to pop her head out to join a photo with the college’s very own “Sir David Attenborough” ZEC Curator Carl Groombridge.
Then there are Red Eyed Tree Frogs which have been bred in captivity and captured on video.
Fish from Madagascar, which are as rare the Giant Panda, are part of a breeding programme in conjunction with an international expert.
Three-banded Armadillo have been bred successfully and are a demonstration of the wonders of evolution as the creature rolls up into a perfect ball.
And cuddly Coati can be hand-fed by the team when they aren’t sleeping in their special tree style beds.
“We have mini beasts and micro-species, such as frogs, which are as important in the global conservation chain, as the big animals people see on TV appeals,” explained Carl.
“We are working with zoos now to support their conservation work and supply our own chain of trained staff of the future. There is no further education College in the UK which has a facility quite like this.”
A tropical biome creates a jungle atmosphere for American Alligators, giant spiders, birds and mammals, while outdoors are Northern Hemisphere creatures which thrive in a UK climate.
“As Shuttleworth College is a land-based learning campus, we work with those on agricultural and farming courses where they increasingly need to understand how their activities can impact on the natural environment,” added Carl.
Nearly 500 students are signed up for courses at the ZEC ranging from introductory Level 1 and Level 2 courses for full-time students to a BSc in Animal Sciences.
Staff member Becca Whitbread, aged 26, former student at the college obtained her BSc before taking her Masters at Anglia Ruskin University. She now works alongside Carl and others in keeping the facility running 365 days of the year.