Stars of Reaseheath College

Students and staff from Reaseheath College’s Animal Management department started the festive season off with a kick. They dressed up donkeys, ponies and goats in festive decoration to spread Christmas cheer around campus and to raise money for The Donkey Sanctuary.

Offerings from the festive parade included chocolates and non-alcoholic mulled wine whilst playing Christmas music in return for donations. The animals included Frankie the Miniature Shetland pony, Cassie the Welsh Mountain Pony, donkeys Percy and Berty, and Alfie, Fergie andphoto 3.JPG Misty the Golden Guernsey Goats.

The students were Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management Year 1 Animal Training Group and KS4 Level 2 students. Course Manager, Kerri Robson said, “It was a huge success. The animals were little stars and so well-behaved. The students were amazing and made a huge effort!”

All departments were extremely generous, raising £76 for The Donkey Sanctuary!





Zoo trip prize for Bury budding scientists

Budding scientists from Bury Church of England High School saw some of their lessons come to life during a behind-the-scenes visit to Reaseheath’s zoo.

Twelve pupils from Years 9 and 10 helped to feed ring tailed lemurs and meerkats and flew birds of prey during an action packed trip round our animal management department.

Pupil Lucy Tyrer, 15, won the chance to spend time with Reaseheath’s zoo keepers after becoming one of the top prizewinners at The Big Bang Fair in Liverpool, a north west event aimed at encouraging young scientists and engineers.

Her project, ‘The Perfect Cup of Tea’, was awarded top marks for enthusiasm and commitment to STEM (education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The category prize was sponsored by Reaseheath College.

Lucy chose to bring 11 fellow science enthusiasts on her day out. All the pupils have completed CREST (Creative Science and Technology) awards. Lucy, who wants to become a vet said: “This was a really good experience. All the colleges near us are in towns so being out in the country and meeting all the animals was amazing.”

Chemistry teacher Amy Jackson, who accompanied the group, said: “Our pupils, particularly girls, are become more and more interested in science. This was a great opportunity to come to Reaseheath and spend time outside doing practical activities. The facilities here are stunning. The whole group had a really good learning experience and loved every minute.”


Career chat inspires herpetological students

Former animal management students Luke Harding and Simon Maddock described their adventures with some of the world’s rarest reptiles and amphibians during a talk to Reaseheath’s Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) yesterday.

Both Luke, 25, and Simon, 24, have gone on to become specialist herpetologists since completing their Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management in 2007. They have remained close friends since their schooldays and regularly share and discuss their research findings.

Luke has just returned from the Caribbean where he has been involved in a project to reinstate an endangered species of frog to the islands of Montserrat and Dominica. Called the ‘Mountain Chicken’, the frog used to be Dominica’s national dish and gets its name because it tastes like chicken.

The frog population on both islands has been drastically hit by disease, illegal hunting and habitat loss. Scientists are desperately trying to save the species through a captive breeding programme and by raising its profile among the local population. Alongside working closely with London Zoo, which has a captive breeding facility, one of Luke’s key tasks was to help run Dominica’s first highly successful Mountain Chicken Day last September.

As well as describing his Caribbean adventures, Luke also talked about his part in a research project  on Komodo dragons in Indonesia…and how he got to follow his dream.

On leaving Reaseheath, Luke began a degree in zoo biology at Nottingham Trent University but left after he was offered an internship at Chester Zoo. He completed his degree later via the Open University. Following his internship he worked as a herpetologist for Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire and then at Colchester Zoo, where he became Deputy Head of the herpetological department. He then transferred full time onto the mountain chicken project.

An equally well travelled Simon outlined his involvement in active research projects in India, Ecuador Papua New Guinea and the Seychelles. He is currently based at the Natural History Museum in London, where he is researching for a joint PhD on the evolution and conservation of amphibians and snakes in the Seychelles in collaboration with the University College London.

Simon says that his Reaseheath experience prepared him well for his academic career. He gained a degree and Masters degree in zoology at Bangor University before moving on to study for his doctorate.

Both former students took part in a lively Q and A session after their talk. Luke said: “It’s great to be back here. Reaseheath has always been a fantastic institution with great staff but it’s been good to catch up with all the new, top end facilities. Hopefully we’ve shown the current students what they can achieve through hard work, determination and drive.

Advised Simon: “It’s really important that you attend events, gain contacts and keep networking. There are loads of opportunities out there but they won’t just be handed to you.”

Luke Harding and Simon Maddock with Josh Flood and Nathan Brookes-Bennett, chairs RHES

Luke Harding and Simon Maddock with Josh Flood and Nathan Brookes-Bennett, chairs RHES

Reaseheath gets top marks for promoting pet care

Reaseheath College has won a national accolade for activities promoting responsible pet ownership during National Pet Month.

The Nantwich, Cheshire, college took the National Pet Month award for the best event in the educational category and was runner up for the best event overall. The activities, organised by Reaseheath’s animal management department, included a sponsored dog walk, rabbit enrichment workshops and educational displays. As well as informing the public and encouraging them to care for their pets, the events raised money for animal charities.

Animal Management Instructor and lead organiser Emma Hunt ran a ‘Go Walkies for Guide Dogs’ in Reaseheath’s grounds and farmland which raised £345 towards the training of guide dogs to support blind and partially sighted people. Each canine entrant enjoyed a tail wagging walk before receiving a doggy bag containing a commemorative dog tag and certificate. At the same time, pet owners were offered a micro chipping service by a qualified professional.

Reaseheath’s zoo was also open to the public, with Emma taking the opportunity to run rabbit enrichment workshops encouraging families to make toys for their pets from cardboard boxes and tubes. The activities raised £82 for the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund.

Other colleagues organised educational displays about responsible pet ownership, particularly the drawbacks of keeping exotic animals, demonstrated how to make garden bird feeders and gave talks on pet care.

Handing over a certificate and educational book on dog breeds, Phil Sketchley, chair of the Trustees of National Pet Month, said: “We liked the balance between fun and education in Reaseheath’s events. They helped promote responsible pet ownership while fitting in with our 2013 theme of ‘companionship’. We cannot wait to hear about Reaseheath’s plans for next year, when National Pet Month will celebrate its 25th anniversary.”

Emma Hunt said: “We were delighted to get this award, particularly as it was the first time we have taken part in National Pet Month. It was a great opportunity to inform the public about pet care – a subject that we are all very passionate about.”


RHES takes a private tour of Crocodiles of the World

By Nathan Brookes-Bennett – RHES Member

On Wednesday 29th May the RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) travelled to Crocodiles of the World in Oxfordshire, where upon arrival they were given a pre-arranged private tour of the complex by founder and head keeper of Crocodiles of the World, Shaun Foggett.

nathan crocodile tripCrocodiles of the World is the first and only crocodile zoo in the UK and exhibits 13 of the 23 species of crocodilian, including the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) and Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis.) It is also one of the few establishments in the world to exhibit all 8 species of Alligatorid. The main goals of Crocodiles of the World is to educate the public about crocodilians and their conservation and to one day exhibit all 23 species of crocodilian.

crocodiles trip rhes

When the RHES arrived at Crocodiles of the World they were given a brief talk on crocodilians including their husbandry, ecology and morphology and were then given the opportunity to handle a number of juvenile crocodilians including a 3ft Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus.) The students were then led round the complex and shown the different exhibits and animals at the zoo, with Shaun explaining how each animal was kept and giving background information about both the species and individual animals.

Throughout the tour the RHES were constantly asking questions to help expand their knowledge of crocodilians and also presented their own knowledge of crocodilians to Shaun which thoroughly impressed him. The tour was finished with a feeding display of the Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) where Shaun demonstrated how crocodilians could be trained to respond to stimuli to stop them getting too boisterous at feeding time.


After the tour RHES and Shaun discussed lengthily about how RHES can help out with future fundraising events for Crocodiles of the World and Shaun answered more of the group’s questions with one member acquiring work experience there over the summer. Special thanks must be said to Crocodiles of the World who were very professional and accommodating and provided RHES with valuable insight into crocodilian care as well as a fantastic day out. Many thanks as well to Valerie for driving us down and Lauren for helping organise the event.

RHES crocodile trip

RHES help monitor Britain’s rarest toad – the Natterjack Toad

On the evening of May 7th after dusk RHES (Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society) assisted the field studies centre in North Wales with a very important data collection survey to help us understand Britain’s rarest toad, the Natterjack Toad.

After a two hour classroom session learning about the history, ecology and behavior of the Natterjacks RHES headed out with trained volunteers to collect some important data which will help authorities understand this species better. The huge team of people managed to cover three sites where the toads are known to be present. All Natterjacks were collected weighed, measured and sexed before being released back into their breeding pools under a license as this species is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

On the night a successful 110 Natterjack toads were collected and processed a small number of Common Toads were relocated to another site to reduce competition for the Natterjack Toad.

During the evening RHES learnt some valuable fieldwork techniques and had a great time whilst collecting valuable data for one of our most threatened species.






RHES take Advantage of Animal Management Trips Week

During Animal Management trips week some of Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) took advantage of their trip to Birmingham Nature Centre and went behind the scenes at the herpetology department.

Adam Radovanovic the Curator of Herpetology at Birmingham Nature Centre took RHES through the exhibits and then the two off show houses. Adam explained about the valuable conservation work they were doing at Birmingham for a number of reptile species including the venomous Mexican Beaded Lizards (Heloderma horridum) and Madagascan Tree Boas (Sanzinia madagascariensis.

Students from RHES had the opportunity to ask Adam about the plans for the future and for the animals that they have at the Zoo. RHES left Birmingham Nature Centre so impressed that some members even picked up work experience forms. A great experience for our students to make connections and to see the real work going on behind the scenes at our zoological collections in the UK.

For more information on the Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society visit their page on our website.

RHES talks a great success

Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) gave talks about reptiles and invertebrates when our zoo opened to the public last Sunday as part of Lambing Weekend.

Student members gave the talks, aided by some of our resident animals including tailless whip scorpions, giant Asian mantis, a bull snake, a ridge tail monitor, violin mantis and a Savu Island python.

The RHES talks were full to capacity and visitors got the chance to meet some of our animals up close and learn some interested facts about them. The members talked about lifespan, natural history and behaviour and discussed the animals’ suitability as pets.

The group also carried out fundraising for the North Wales Reptile and Raptor Sanctuary, which we hope to visit in the future. The fundraising action included ‘Ozzie the owl’ visiting and greeting the public, the sale of cakes and sweets, and a raffle.

RHES is a student run society which meets up once a week and undertakes a range of activities to support learning about reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Keep an eye out for their events while the zoo is open this summer.

Follow the Reaseheath Herpetological and Entomological Society (RHES) on Facebook to keep up to date with what they’ve been up to.