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We have lots of festivities planned this weekend to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity, IBD, on Saturday, 22 May, and Nettle Weekend on 22 and 23 May.

Biodivesity festival at the Museum, 22 May

From painting a new Elephant Parade sculpture and the launch of the Young Darwin Prize for young natural history reporters and Biking for Biodiversity to our science roadshow and live quartet music, our biodiversity day festival here promises a packed programme of events for visitors.

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We've just heard Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games (right) from BBC Springwatch are our hosts for the day.

 

During the day there will be various talks in the Attenborough Studio on topics like 'Big, Beautiful Nature' and 'Food Biodiversity', with link-ups to other national festivities.

 

For more details, visit our International Day for Biological Diversity webpage.

 

elephant-parade-painted-tall.jpgMost of our IBD events are focused around the Darwin Centre. This week we officially launched the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, which is in the Darwin Centre, so drop in and see what it's all about if you get the chance.

 

We join over 400 organistations, charities and groups across the UK celebrating International Year of Biodiversity. The fun has already begun this week with highlights including walking with wolves, taking part in BioBlitzes, and Scottish Highland safaris.

 

Find out about events taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the International Year of Biodiversity in the UK website.

 

Read about Elephant Parade at the Museum in my earlier blog.

Nettle Weekend in our Wildlife Garden and across the Museum, 22 - 23 May685px-Urtica_dioica06_ies.jpg

As part of our biodiversity celebrations and the national 'Be Nice to Nettles Week', we are also hosting Nettle Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Many of us tend to be put off by nettles from an early age, but the merits of the common nettle should be discovered anew. For starters, without stinging nettles, the caterpillars of peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral butterflies would miss their favourite food plant.

 

Nettle-based activities, food and drink in the Wildlife Garden, a yurt on our West lawn showcasing nettle herbal medicine and textiles, and the nettle quiz are a few of the many highlights over Nettle Weekend. You'll discover the history and value of nettles and there are talks with nettle experts in our Attenborough Studio. Find out about Nettle Weekend.


You can learn some fascinating stuff about nettles and their stings on the official nettle website and look out for our Urtica dioica (common nettle) Species of the Day on Sunday, which is Nettle Day, when we examine the nettle's taxonomy, uses and habitat.

   
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We have a family of foxes living in the Wildlife Garden. They've set up a breeding den, called an earth, tucked away under the garden shed in the private part of the Wildlife Garden.

And now, we've got our first foxcam set up to follow our foxy lodgers scampering around. There are about 3 to 4 little cubs that have been spotted so far. They come out to feed on earthworms, beetles and other tasty snacks.

As I write this blog in the afternoon, one cheeky cub comes out to pose as if to say 'hello, watch me, I'm on camera'. What a show-off!

You can use the foxcam day by day and get a glimpse of the fox cubs growing up. The Wildlife Garden staff tell me that they are most active early in the morning and early evening about 6ish. So we recommend catching up with the foxcam at these times to get a good glimpse, but then I just saw my cub in the middle of the afternoon. Also on camera, you may spot pigeons, squirrels and the legs of humans too.

Our Wildlife Garden fox cubs were probably born in late March. Over the summer months they will play, explore and gradually begin to fend for themselves by joining their parents on night-time hunts. By September the cubs should be fully grown.

For a sneak peak of a fox cub appearance on our foxcam, have a look at our YouTube foxcam clip from 26 April.



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We have the next Night Safari event coming up on Monday night, 10 May, starting at 6.30pm.

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Paul Barrett, our dinosaur specialist, leading the first Night Safari visitors through the torchlit Dinosaurs gallery

At our first Night Safari event in March, the feedback was fantastic. Everyone raved about it, describing it as a 'magical' night, 'one in a million' and 'you guys and girls rock!'

 

What most people loved was the chance to enjoy a more exclusive experience of the Museum in small groups, and with a relaxed and personal touch.

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Monday's rare treats include getting up close to meteorites, spiders, a mummified cat and two-headed sheep skull (!) and of course, the dinosaurs by torchlight. The torchlit Dinosaurs gallery tour was a late addition to the March event, and is back again.

 

Visitors will meet some of the scientists from the recent BBC Two Museum of Life documentary and hear about their favourite specimens, including admiring the Central Hall's magnicient ceiling decorations with botanist, Sandy Knapp.

 

As before, the tours starts around 7ish and groups are taken around the Central Hall to hotspots where they'll meet scientists, specimens and exhibits, and shadowy dinosaurs. With a 30-minute break in between to enjoy the bar... and bellinis.

 

There's also time after the tour to chat with the scientists at the bar before the doors close at 10.30pm.

Book tickets online.

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elephant-mosaic-800-tall.jpgTwo magnificently decorated elephant sculptures appeared on our West lawn after the Bank Holiday weekend. You can't miss Seymour and Phoolan if you head towards our Wildlife Garden, facing the main Museum entrance.


Phoolan (right) created by Carrie von Reichardt and Nick Reynolds, is covered in 1000s of mosaic tiles, with gaps revealing bones damaged by human actions. Seymour, the white elephant below, was hand painted by artist Emma Elizabeth Kemp. They will be joined by a third elephant for International Day for Biological Diversity which we're celebrating on 22 May.

 

The three life-size baby elephants grace us with their colourful presence until the end of June..

 

Our hand-decorated elephants are part of The Elephant Parade in London, the Capital's big public art event led by the Elephant Family charity, to help raise awareness for endangered Asian elephants. This unique urban savannah will feature 250 baby elephants displayed across London landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, the South Bank and our own Museum. Look out for them.

 

A host of celebrities and artists from the art and design world have been involved in painting and decorating the elephants. Well-known names include Marc Quinn, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lulu Guinness, Julien Macdonald, Issa, John Rocha, Jonathan Yeo, Jack Vettriano, Nina Campbell and Nicky Haslam.

 

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In early July, the herd of elephants will get together for one big exhibition and then be auctioned for charity at Sotheby's.

 

Read about The Elephant Parade on our International Year of Biodiversity in the UK (IYB-UK) website.

 

Find out more about the endangered Asian elephant on our Species of the Day website.

 

Browse more elephant pictures on The Elephant Parade website.

 

The Elephant Family charity is a partner organisation of IYB-UK.