While most people run screaming at the sight of one of our eight legged friends, Zoo Keepers at Chessington World of Adventures Resort have been working to ensure a native breed of Spider doesn’t face extinction in the wild. And the hard work has paid off - their success in reintroducing the endangered Fen Raft Spider Species into the British wilds has won Chessington Gold at the annual BIAZA awards.

Fen Raft Spiders are a native of the UK; they are the largest Spider that resides here – so large in fact that they eat fish! However Fen Rafts have become extremely rare in the UK and have been listed as Endangered. This sadly dwindling population has largely been affected by human encroachment. In 2011 Chessington World of Adventures Resort decided to help change this and became involved in conserving this vulnerable species. Chessington began working on the rearing and releasing of the Fen Rafts to increase their population in the wild. Over a two year period, Chessington released 400 spiderlings overall and helped prove that reintroduction of this species into new areas worked. Wild numbers almost doubled during this time and the programme was so successful that Zoo’s no longer have to rear the spiders to keep the population up.

BIAZA, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, recently recognised Chessington’s successful work on the Fen Rafts at their Annual Awards, and awarded Chessington with the Gold Award for this work.

Keith Russell, a Supervisor within the Zoo team at Chessington, was instrumental in leading this important work and accepted the award on behalf of the Zoo stating “The successful work on reintroducing the Fen Raft species is a great example of the good Zoos can do in helping conserve endangered species in the wild. Here at Chessington we are very pleased to have received such high praise and recognition from BIAZA for the part we played in this project.”

Project partners for the programme include NE (Natural England), the BBC Wildlife Fund, and the Suffolk and Sussex Wildlife trusts.

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Further Information

Notes to Editors

  • High Resolution images of Chessington World of Adventures Resort are available for the media to download free of charge from 
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Opening times:

  • The full theme park will be open on selected days from Friday 18th March – Monday 31st October 2016, please check the website for availability..  For more information on opening times and to book tickets please visit
  • Discover the perfect family get away at the Chessington Resort Hotels - Safari Hotel and Azteca Hotel - where you can enjoy themed rooms, an indoor swimming pool, spa and Savannah Splash pool and two fantastic themed restaurants. Or for the ultimate outdoor accommodation experience try our Explorer Glamping – brand new for 2016! For more information please visit
  • For 12 months unlimited access to Chessington and/or Merlin’s other UK attractions see our range of annual passes at Merlin Annual Pass
  • The Zoo at Chessington World of Adventures is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). BIAZA represents its member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.
  • MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS plc is the leading name in location-based, family entertainment. Europe’s Number 1 and the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, Merlin now operates 111 attractions, 12 hotels/4 holiday villages in 23 countries and across 4 continents. The company aims to deliver memorable and rewarding experiences to its almost 63 million visitors worldwide, through its iconic global and local brands, and the commitment and passion of its managers and c26,000 employees (peak season). 
  • Among  Merlin’s attractions are - SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND, DreamWorks Tours SHREK’s Adventure, The London Eye, Dungeons, Gardaland, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, Alton Towers Resort, Warwick Castle, THORPE PARK Resort, Blackpool Tower, Heide Park Resort, Sydney Tower Eye and SKYWALK.  All brands which are distinctive, challenging and innovative – and which have great potential for growth in the future. Visit for more information.

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