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Museum treasures will be revealed on the exclusive new Night Safari tour

When we announced the first Dino Snores sleepover event in January this year, many adults were understandably miffed that the only way you could join in was if you accompanied a group of children. (After all, it is a children’s event.)

 

But now there’s something new and exotic for adults and it’s called Night Safari. The first safari will take place on 8 March. Expect all the adventure and atmosphere of a real wildlife safari, but here in the comfort and splendour of our iconic Central Hall, not to mention a bar.

 

Night safaris won’t be all-nighters, they’ll start around 6.30pm and end at 10.30pm, and they promise some rare treats.

 

On arrival at the Museum, there will be an introductory talk and safari visitors can enjoy the bar before the tours start (drinks can’t be taken on the tours for obvious reasons). Groups of 25 visitors will then join our Night Safari guides for their tours around 7ish, starting at different points in Central Hall.

 

Tour groups will explore both the Central Hall ground floor, featuring a stop at Dippy, our famous Diplodocus skeleton (below), and the upper galleries, including Minerals, the Vault and the giant sequoia tree trunk at the very top of the balconies.

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On the tour, visitors will meet some of our leading scientists and researchers who’ll reveal and discuss their favourite, treasured specimens. Some of these ‘top five’ specimens are usually kept in our collections behind the scenes, so this is a really unique opportunity to get close to something extraordinary, with the expert on it at hand.

 

I’m told that at the March safari, one of the scientists' chosen specimens will be an awesome set of great white shark jaws and skin - presented by our well-known and respected fish curator, Ollie Crimmen.

 

To ease off the safari heat, there’s a 30-minute break in the middle of the tour. Tours finish around 9.45pm, so enough time for a last drink and chat before heading out from the Central Hall wildlife at 10.30, when the doors close.

 

If our Night Safaris are anything like the Dino Snores events, they are likely to sell out quickly, so book tickets online early. Night Safaris are planned for every 2 months on a Monday night and the next ones are confirmed for 10 May and 12 July.

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Let's stay together

Lovers’ day is reputedly named after one or more of the early Christian martyrs named Valentine – pretty apt, as we are all martyrs to the unstoppable Valentine’s Day marketing machine nowadays. But hey, let’s not get too cynical, it’s a day for remembering love, passion and friendship, which can’t be bad.

 

Times like these, it’s good to look to a different source for inspiration, and what better than the natural world to get you in the mood for love…

 

Cut to the chase. How do you show you’re attracted to someone? Play hard to get, nuzzle close, strut your best dance moves, or stick like glue? And what’s the best way to your heart? Tasty meal, gorgeous gift, or undivided attention?

 

Maybe the animals and our scientists can show us a thing or two at the Love in the Natural World event here at the Museum on Sunday. It promises to be a really enjoyable blind date experiment with nature. Come along to the Attenborough Studio and join us, it’s free. (There’s a late morning and early afternoon session.)

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While you’re here at the Museum, have a peek around the dazzling Vault gallery and see which jewels can really impress.

 

On the theme of natural love and animal attraction, here are a few things to ponder:

  • apparently some of the most faithful animals are voles and penguins
  • the male deep-sea angler fish gets so attached to his female mate, his mouth literally fuses with her skin and their bloodstreams merge
  • how romantic snowdrops can be - for places to see them, try BBC Countryfile's 5 best snowdrop gardens or Valentine's Day Snowdrop Walk at Keswick
  • bonobos are the only non-human animal to indulge in pretty much every kind of sexual behaviour and orientation - l'll leave this to your imagination.

 

Easy Tiger

 

It’s also Chinese New Year on Sunday and the start of the Year of the Tiger. That Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year coincide is rare, and bodes well. It means the entire year is going to be filled with passion and great love.

 

tigers-mating.jpgThis is significant because the most critically endangered of all our tigers is the South Chinese (Amoy) tiger. There could be fewer than 30 left in the wild... The United Nations has put the tiger at the top of its list of 'most important’ endangered animals to be saved in 2010.


There was a recent heartening news story from the Telegraph about a very romantic couple of these tigers breeding on a South African reserve, called Tigerwoods and Madonna (pictured here in a loved-up state). The aim is to relocate them in China at some point. Tigerwoods has fathered 7 cubs so far. Long may you mate! Reportedly tigers only pair for a few days during mating, while the female is fertile. But in that time, if the male is unchallenged, they can mate up to 100 times. Blimey.

 

The main Chinese New Year celebrations in London’s Trafalgar Square are on 21 February, but there will be festivities starting this Sunday in Chinatown. Enjoy.

 

 

Picture: 'Tigerwoods mounting Madonna' © Save China's Tigers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike

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Evolve magazine's latest issue features Douglas Palmer's new illustrated guide to evolution. © Peter Barrett

This month the second issue of Evolve, the Museum’s new full-colour magazine, hits the shelves. It’s now on sale (£3.50) in the Museum shop and online, where you can also subscribe to it annually.

 

old-lady-moth_400.jpgThe first issue of Evolve came out in October 2009 when it evolved from Nature First, the Museum’s Members-only magazine, and doubled its size to 72 pages. The extended format allows scope for bigger, more wide-ranging features, and more regulars updates about Museum events and our Wildlife Garden, science in the field, and the Forgotten Naturalists series. It's also packed with colour photos (like the one opposite of an old lady moth from our gardens outside).

 

Museum Members still receive Evolve free as part of their benefits package.

 

So how’s the new magazine doing?

 

I spoke to Helen Sturge, Evolve’s senior editor, to find out what feedback she’s had. The response has been amazingly enthusiastic, says Helen:

 

'It’s fast becoming a hit. I received a really positive welcome for Evolve’s first issue, with sales well above our projected figures. Letters and comments flooded in.

 

evolve2-cover-400.jpg‘Readers said they really enjoyed the amazing photography and variety of content. In particular, Philip Hoare’s feature on the whales of London received much praise, as did the article we ran on how research into the brain size of dwarfed mammals is helping us to understand more about a recent species of human discovered in 2003.

 

‘We also had letters from editors of other magazines congratulating us on our "wonderfully strong design" and "first-rate quality".'

 

Each issue takes around 4 months from commissioning articles to final design. Evolve is actually designed in-house by Steve Long in the Museum’s Design Studio (who many Museum staff will know).

 

Issue 2 (right) highlights include a kick-off to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity with a feature about the rich tapestry of life around us, why it is so important and ways to join in. And an exclusive piece from the science writer and author of Evolution, Douglas Palmer, about how illustrating the fossil past helps us picture the history of life. It features wonderful images from the book's artist, Peter Barrett.

 

‘I would also recommend author Karolyn Shindler’s article as she follows in the footsteps of pioneering fossil-hunter Dorothea Bate, journeying to Majorca and the final resting place of a mouse-like goat, Myotragus; and don’t miss naturalist and presenter Nick Baker telling us why he is inspired by

the Natural History Museum,’ says Helen.

 

weevil-ring-400.jpgOne of my favourite pieces in the new issue is the article about 'Birds and people' by natural history writer and ornithologist, Jonathan Elphick. It’s a fascinating cultural look at the many ways birds affect and enrich our lives and art, with some extraordinary photos. For bird lovers, there’s a Birds and people project you can get involved in. In another excellent piece, I discovered how wonderful weevils could be (200 years ago someone even set one in a gold ring) and how to spot these beaky beetles.

 

Get hold of a copy of the new Evolve if you haven’t yet.

 

Helen and her team also put together our quarterly children’s magazine, Second Nature for Members.