Unsung heroes: nominations gather pace for Bristol Zoo's Walk of Fame
As the first nominations come in for potential new names on Bristol Zoo's Walk of Fame, David Clensy meets two of the unsung wildlife heroes whose names have been put forward for the honour
NOMINATIONS are flooding in for suggestions of unsung wildlife heroes who could have their names added to Bristol Zoo's Walk of Fame. In 2011 the zoo revealed the top 49 greatest Bristol icons, as voted for by the public.
The list, which included everyone from Brunel to Banksy, formed the foundation for the Walk of Fame which was opened in summer of that year as part of the attraction's 175th anniversary celebrations.
Each of the celebrities was honoured with a plaque made from Bristol Blue Glass at the zoo.
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But now the zoo is looking to extend the list, by adding a roll of non-celebrity Bristolians – unsung heroes in the world of environment and wildlife.
In a piece in The Post last week the zoo called for members of the public to nominate the people in their community who have made an extra special effort or achievement within conservation or sustainability, to be added on to the roll of honour.
One of the names that has been volunteered by members of the public so far as a possible contender for the Walk of Fame is Ian McGuire, who raises awareness of threats to the habitat of owls by giving public talks.
The 49-year-old from Yate took "a big pay cut" when he left his job running his father's tool shop business, to set up his one-man awareness-raising programme, Wild Owl, in 2008.
"I've always had a passion for wildlife," he says. "Growing up in Winterbourne, I spent a lot of my time walking along the River Frome and fishing in the local lakes.
"I've always been interested in birds of prey, and owls in particular, and I was doing voluntary work with various bird of prey charities, before I set up Wild Owl.
"It was a big decision to take a big pay cut and devote my entire life to raising awareness of the plight of owls, but it was important for me to devote my life to the birds – they're such wonderful creatures.
"I now spend much of my time going around schools and community groups talking about the birds, and I have two owls – a tawny owl and a barn owl, which I use to raise awareness.
"I try to explain to people how the owls live and how our actions, as humans, can threaten their natural habitats, and what we can all do to support them in the English countryside."
Ian says he would be delighted to appear on the zoo's Walk of Fame.
"There are some big names on there already, so it would be a great honour," he says.
Another early nominee has been Richard Bland, a retired Clifton College history teacher who has devoted much of his free time to studying local wildlife since arriving in the city in 1961.
The 76-year-old, from Stoke Bishop, has devised and led studies of bird populations, monitored climate records, measured many of the veteran trees in the city, and worked on studies of the decline of sparrows throughout the 1980s-90s.
He has held leading positions in local natural history and wildlife organisations, notably as president of Bristol Naturalists' Society (BNS) and as editor of the organisation's annual publication, Nature in Avon.
"I've always had an interest in wildlife, ever since I was a child," Richard says. "But when I came to Bristol in 1961, I joined the Bristol Naturalists' Society – a good, old-fashioned Victorian naturalists' society, and did a lot of work with them, though I later also joined lots of other organisations as they appeared around the city."
As a leading contributor to the acclaimed Avon Bird Report, produced jointly by the Bristol Ornithological Club and the Bristol Naturalists' Society, Richard has spent much of the past few decades recording the changes in local bird populations.
He has also been a trustee of Avon Wildlife Trust, and for many years the regional representative for the British Trust for Ornithology – as well as individually cataloguing more than 3,000 natural history books in the BNS Library and assisted in an ambitious reorganisation of the collection dating from 1855.
He undertakes numerous studies of his own, such as walking the same transect route across the Downs every day for 17 years, logging bird populations in great detail, and for the last 10 years, also plants, and cycling through every 1km-square in the city and county of Bristol, recording all the fauna and flora encountered.
"Being out there monitoring wildlife has always been my great passion, I enjoy it," he says. "Conservation has to start from accurate knowledge.
"For instance, I've been involved with a survey of the rook population in the region, by making a census of the birds every five years since 1975. That's ensured we know how they are adapting to changing conditions locally."
Dr Bryan Carroll, chief executive at Bristol Zoo Gardens, said: "The Bristol Walk of Fame has historically celebrated the city's most well-known people, places and icons.
"Now it's time to celebrate those who have helped to preserve or protect our community. By asking the public to nominate friends or family we hope to unearth some unsung local heroes, and give them the thanks and recognition they deserve."
Eight new inductees will be chosen, from the following categories – most sustainable school, "eco hero", outstanding achievement in wildlife conservation, green team award, local conservation educator, most courageous animal rescue, most eco-friendly business, and finally "nature friendly" neighbourhood.
Full details of the eight nomination categories can be found on the zoo website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk/ forms/walk-of-fame-2013-nomination- form. Nominations can also be sent in via email to walkoffame@bristol zoo.org.uk or by post to: Walk of Fame 2013, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol Zoo BS8 3HA.