The project is the first of its kind in a UK zoo, projecting holograms of critically endangered species to inspire and educate the public about the threats they face and how we can help Midlands-based conservation charity, Twycross Zoo, has partnered up with the universities of Portsmouth and Nottingham, to launch a UK first.
Midlands-based conservation charity, Twycross Zoo, has partnered up with the universities of Portsmouth and Nottingham, to launch a UK first.
Holograms of critically endangered Javan rhinos and endangered African elephants are to be installed in an exciting exhibition at the zoo, opening to the public today (15 August).
The project, aptly entitled ‘Projecting Hope’, provides a novel, attention-grabbing and brand-new way for visitors to discover and engage with endangered species. Using exciting technology, developed at the University of Portsmouth, the zoo will project 50cm holograms of critically endangered Javan rhinos and endangered African elephants.
Alongside the hologram, the exhibition will also feature light-up infographics, and engaging displays explaining the threats of these iconic species and the work that can be done to protect them.
At the end of the one-year installation, the project will be evaluated by both Dr Richard Sands and Dr Lisa Yon from the University of Nottingham, to understand its impact on the zoo’s visitors. Focussing on the emotions provoked, and the immediate action the exhibit prompts; this research will help to support future conservation-led public engagement projects, not only at the zoo, but as a resource for others across the UK and the world.
Dr Yon and Dr Sands have been working with a team of academics from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth to bring this project to life. The two holograms have been designed by the team at the University of Portsmouth and use an innovative new technology to create a 3D, moving hologram, which visitors to Twycross Zoo will be able to witness first-hand, getting closer than ever to these species.
The University opened its £7 million Centre for Creative and Immersive eXtended Reality (CCIXR) last year; the UK’s first purpose-built facility to bring together a whole suite of the very latest XR technologies under one roof to support innovation in virtual, augmented and extended realities.
"It was a great opportunity to use our skills in animation and game development to create a message that resonates. I don't want a future where holograms are the only way to see such magnificent animals."
- Dr Brett Stevens, Research and Innovation Lead for the School of Creative Technologies at the University
Dr Brett Stevens, Research and Innovation Lead for the School of Creative Technologies at the University, said: “We use technology everyday, so finding a way to engage with visitors was really important. It was a great opportunity to use our skills in animation and game development to create a message that resonates. I don't want a future where holograms are the only way to see such magnificent animals.”
Elephants and rhinos are both recognisable as iconic animals, but they are also keystone species, vitally important for the ecosystems of their native habitats. Sadly, both are at risk of extinction due to human actions.
- Javan rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with only 76 remaining in the entire world, all in Ujong Kulon National Park on the island of Java, Indonesia. For most people, seeing the hologram is the only way they will ever see this incredibly rare species.
- All three species of elephants are endangered: the Asian elephant, the African savannah elephant and the critically endangered African forest elephants. Unlike the Javan rhino, they are part of conservation breeding programmes across the world to help support a healthy population of the species in captivity. The Elephant Welfare Project supports research to understand and improve the welfare of captive elephants, to ensure the best outcome for the conservation of these species.
Dr Richard Sands, Education Manager at Twycross Zoo said: “We are in the midst of a mass extinction crisis, with one million plant and animal species at risk right now. This project is a fantastic way to raise our visitors’ awareness of two iconic species, in a cool and futuristic new way.
“Sadly, most of us will never get to see a Javan rhino in real-life, but the work happening at zoos like ours across the country will help to preserve important species like the Eastern black rhino that are part of a breeding programme at Twycross Zoo.
“It’s through our visitors’ support that we can continue this vital work, and it’s exciting to give them a new experience to engage and learn about animals in a way that no other UK zoo has ever done before.”
In the heart of the country, at Twycross Zoo, the team is working hard to protect rhinos from extinction. As home to a pair of critically endangered Eastern black rhinos, Nandi and Sudan, they are part of an EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) which is designed to maintain a healthy population of the species in captivity and support their wild counterparts. Recently the zoo’s expert team have begun introducing the rhinos, in hopes that they will become a successful breeding pair.
Lisa Yon, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, and Founding Director of the Elephant Welfare Project said: “There is no doubt that humans are the reason both elephants and rhinos are at risk of extinction, but they can also be the solution.
“I’m thrilled to have collaborated on this project with Richard and the team at Twycross Zoo, as a key visitor attraction in the region, it provides an exceptional platform for our work. The more people that we can engage with these critically endangered species, the stronger our impact can be.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the project and the continued efforts to save these species from extinction.”