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Why WWT Slimbridge is called the birthplace of modern conservation

Posted on 07 Nov 2019

One man’s vision

On a bright December morning in 1945 two men watched a large flock of geese feeding on the banks of the river Severn in Gloucestershire. As they watched they noticed that the flock contained several different species of geese. Then in the bright sunlight they saw something very special. Two geese with the unmistakable golden eye-rings of lesser-white fronted geese. It was the first time the species had been recorded in the UK since 1886.

In the bright sunshine the yellow eye-rings were very distinct and called forth the remark that they were shining like golden sovereigns.

Sir Peter Scott was one of the men on the bank that morning and it was this sighting that inspired him to set up his wildlife trust where WWT Slimbridge sits today, on the banks of the river Severn. He described it as an avian Serengeti.

Inspiring the conservationists of the future

Sir Peter Scott knew how to take action and how to inspire others. His vision was to provide a safe haven for wild birds but also to bring people closer to nature. He understood that people and nature are part of the same intertwined ecosystem. He realised – ahead of his time – that our wealth, our health and our emotional wellbeing all depend on the natural world. He understood that showing people how amazing nature is, can ignite a passion to conserve it.

Continuing Scott’s legacy

Slimbridge 2020 continues Sir Peter Scott’s work, bringing his vision into the 21st century. Visitors will be able to discover more about our international conservation work, the pioneering techniques we use to bring wildlife back from the brink and our work to reverse the decline of valuable wetlands.

Yet at its core WWT’s work continues to be about inspiring each and every person to take action for wildlife and the natural world. At a time when this is more important than ever Slimbridge 2020 will bring visitors even closer to the wonders of the natural world, inspiring the next generation of wildlife champions.

The golden goose

Each exhibit tells an important part of the WWT story. Scott’s Goose Challenge takes the inspiration of the lesser white-fronted geese and brings it into an immersive exhibit that will help visitors understand the significance of Slimbridge as the birthplace of conservation.

To the untrained eye the lesser white-fronted goose and the European white-fronted goose look very similar. However if you look more closely you will be able to see the subtle differences. Visitors will be able to try out our binoculars and telescopes in the challenge to find the rare lesser white-fronted goose by looking for the golden ring around its eyes.

Making wildlife accessible to all

WWT centres continue to be the places to experience both exciting and accessible wildlife experiences. The health and wellbeing benefits our visitors get at our wheelchair-accessible reserves will be extended at Slimbridge with the opening of the new Estuary Tower and The Severn Estuary Walkway. The fully accessible viewing tower and walkway will enable visitors who wouldn’t normally venture beyond the boundaries of the centre to explore the wider reserve and experience the wonders of the avian Serengeti that first inspired Sir Peter Scott.

Find out more about Slimbridge 2020