The exciting new installation forms part of a £4.4m funding award announced by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in 2016. The project is subject to planning permission and a final decision from HLF.
The outdoor facility would comprise a 2000 square meter walk-through aviary, allowing visitors to get a birds-eye view of the typical habitat wetland species rely on, and give them a glimpse into how conservation is saving endangered species.
WWT Slimbridge General Manager, Gary Haseley-Nejrup said:
“These new plans are a landmark in bringing people and wildlife closer together. Visitors will be able to walk through areas of flooded woodland, reed forest and marsh wetland, allowing them to see and understand the habitats of Slimbridge species, old and new, like never before.”
“It will enable us to house and conserve a range of incredible wildlife, including Slimbridge favourites like avocet and black-tailed godwit, as well as new species such as bearded tits, rarely seen in Gloucestershire – an opportunity many people will never have had before. With wetland comes other creatures too. Expect to see butterflies, mini-beasts and more.”
Attached to the aviary, the Living Wetland Theatre will offer the perfect open-air venue for live and interactive demonstrations and the chance to get up-close to beautiful wetland birds while presenters introduce the species on stage. Stars of the show will include free-flying pelicans and diving whistling ducks. The theatre will also offer a platform for live debates with researchers, scientists and TV experts as they explore conservation and environmental issues.
In order to make way for the new facilities, the Trust has had to make the difficult decision to remove the much-loved Tropical House in September 2017.
“The Tropical House has been a stalwart in the Slimbridge landscape for 50 years and we’ll be very sorry to see it go. But we’ve taken the important value of the Tropical House and incorporated that into the new facility. We’ve ensured that the replacement will be much better equipped to house vulnerable species, will be fully accessible to people with limited mobility and offer an enhanced experience for visitors.” said Gary Haseley-Nejrup.
The remaining award funds are earmarked to renovate the home of the conservationist and WWT founder Sir Peter Scott at Slimbridge and inspire visitors to follow in his footsteps. A selection of other attractions will form the project; additional exhibits for visitors to enjoy and a range of innovative volunteering opportunities for the local community. If approved, construction work will begin next year ahead of the aviary opening in 2020.