Posted: Sat 11th May 2024

Chester Zoo launches British Sign Language-interpreted videos for new himalayas habitat – featuring rare snow leopards

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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In a pioneering move during Deaf Awareness Week, Chester Zoo has teamed up with the Deaf & Sensory Network (DSN) to roll out a series of British Sign Language (BSL)-interpreted videos across their new 1,500sqm Himalayas Habitat.

This initiative caters specifically to the needs of BSL users, allowing them to engage deeply with the exhibit through QR code-accessible videos at each of the six animal habitats.

The interpreted videos are delivered by deaf BSL tutor Lisa Birtles and cover several species, including red pandas, parrots, Vietnamese pheasants, and the newly introduced snow leopards.

The initiative aims to provide an inclusive experience for all visitors, especially showcasing the rare and majestic snow leopards in a format accessible to the BSL community.

Gill Reeder, CEO of DSN, highlighted the importance of this collaboration. “At DSN, we believe in breaking down barriers and making every experience accessible to all,” Reeder said. “By providing BSL interpretation, we are not only adhering to the recognition of British Sign Language as an official language in the UK but also enhancing the zoo experience for the deaf and hard of hearing community. We are proud to work with Chester Zoo and to lead the way in accessibility and inclusion.”

The zoo’s Digital Learning Manager, Lauren Walker, emphasised the educational goals of the initiative. “Education is at the heart of what we do at Chester Zoo. By introducing BSL-interpreted videos, we are ensuring that our educational message about wildlife conservation reaches all corners of the community,”

Lauren noted. “This project helps us connect more deeply with our visitors, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to learn about and enjoy our new Himalayas habitat.”

The Himalayas Habitat is designed to mimic the natural rocky terrain of the Himalayan mountains, providing an ideal environment for snow leopards. This introduction marks the first time in Chester Zoo’s 92-year history that it has housed this endangered species, which faces threats from climate change, habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict in their native habitats across central Asia, Mongolia, and Nepal.

In addition to the snow leopards, visitors can also explore BSL-interpreted videos at the zoo’s extensive elephant habitat, further spotlighting endangered species and the zoo’s conservation efforts.

DSN, which has supported the deaf and sensory loss community in the Cheshire and North East Wales area for over 47 years, also offers a range of BSL courses and Deaf Awareness Training through its training arm, Incus.

“This initiative is a critical step in making Chester Zoo’s educational and conservation efforts accessible to everyone, reinforcing the zoo’s role as a leader in both conservation and community engagement,” added Gill.

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