A five-year-old pupil from Air Balloon Hill Primary School, in St George, has raised money to help safeguard four endangered species of snail housed at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
The inspirational youngster, named William, visited the Zoo with his mother during the summer of 2016 and had seen posters detailing the Zoo’s plight to protect the near-extinct Polynesian tree snails (Partula snail).
Following his visit, William asked if he could organise a fundraising event in his local community centre and through cake and biscuit sales, wildlife crafts and colouring competitions he managed to raise £30.
Carmen Solan, senior invertebrate keeper at Bristol Zoo, said: “We were completely taken aback by William’s donation. The fact that someone so young had felt strongly enough to take action and help raise awareness of these endangered species is inspirational and something we should all applaud.
“One of our key objectives is to inspire and educate our future generations and this is a clear example of how this can be achieved. We’d like to thank William for his very kind donation and for taking such an interest in these often forgotten creatures.”
William and his mother were invited back into the Zoo by the invertebrate team to see the snails up-close.
He received a tour of the Zoo’s Bug World exhibit and spoke to experts about the tiny animals, which grow to around 20mm.
Four species of Polynesian tree snail are being cared for in Bug World at Bristol Zoo Gardens - all of which are extinct in the wild.
Bristol Zoological Society is part of the Partula Consortium, an international group to help maintain the species currently held in captivity, as well as to breed key species to release back into the wild.
Carmen added: “Our conservation experts conduct regular field surveys and are investigating new potential release sites for the snails – we hope to be sending some more back this year to support previous releases in the last two years and in 2018 we will be working directly on the island of Raiatea in the French Polynesian archipelago.
“It is hoped that we can increase awareness of the threats to endemic Polynesian biodiversity from invasive species amongst local communities and schools.”
Most species of Polynesian tree snails, from French Polynesia, were made extinct through predation by the introduced carnivorous Rosy Wolf snail in a failed attempt at biological control of an introduced species of African land snail.
Some of the Polynesian tree snail species were rescued by the international Zoo community before they disappeared from the wild.
The Partula snail was first discovered in 1769 by Joseph Banks during the first voyage of the Endeavour.
It is a small spiral-shelled land snail and like other snails, they can retract their bodies inside their shells. They move around the trees and plants by using waves of muscular activity in their single foot. The foot glides over the surface of leaves on a layer of slime that is produced by a gland at the front end of the foot.