WWT Slimbridge is a wetland reserve managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (a UK charity) at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England. Slimbridge is halfway between Bristol and Gloucester on the estuary of the river Severn. The reserve was the first WWT centre to be opened, on 10 November 1946, thanks to the vision of artist and naturalist Sir Peter Scott. The United Kingdom now has eight other WWT sites.
The reserve exists to care for and study ducks, geese and swans of the world. To cater for bird and duck watchers, sixteen hides overlook the fields, streams and lakes bordering the River Severn and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.
WWT Slimbridge is also the home of WWT Consulting, a subsidiary business of the Trust that provides clients with wetland consultancy services.
The Sloane Observation Tower gives far-reaching views to the Cotswold escarpment in the east and the River Severn and Forest of Dean in the West. The centre has a shop, restaurant, art gallery and Tropical House.
The site has 3 square kilometres of reserve, of which 500,000 square metres is landscaped and can be visited by the public.
The number of ducks, geese and swans is greatest in winter, with large flocks of White-fronted Geese, sometimes with a rare Lesser White-fronted Goose amongst them. Bewick's Swans are a feature of Slimbridge in winter, arriving from northern Russia to enjoy the milder climate of southern England. Their behaviour has been studied intensely at Slimbridge. The pattern on each bird's beak is unique and is recorded in small paintings from front and side views (rather like "mug shots") to aid recognition. Birds are also given names (for example, Maud, The Major, Ethel, Rudy and Aristotle).
Other winter visitors are birds of prey such as Peregrine and Merlin, as well as wading birds and songbirds. Princess Elizabeth arranged for the first Whooper Swans to be sent to Slimbridge during a visit to Canada, at the personal request of Peter Scott during a visit by the Queen to Slimbridge in 1952. They became known as the Queen's Swans.
An early success story in the 1950s was the saving of the Nene goose (or Hawaiian Goose) from extinction. Breeding at Slimbridge was successful and there are still Nene geese at Slimbridge today. However, initial reintroduction into the wild in Hawaii was unsuccessful since the Nene's natural environment was not protected from predators introduced by man. Once the Nene's habitat was protected, reintroduction became successful.
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