An 83-year-old tourist attraction, home to the world-famous marching flamingos, today [Wednesday, January 22] announced its name change to Ardastra Gardens and Wildlife Conservation Centre.
Dropping zoo from its moniker reflects the organization’s decision to concentrate more heavily upon rescue, rehabilitation and responsible breeding, according to officials. “People’s expectations of zoos are they should be bigger and better. We do not have nearly as many animals as our international counterparts nor do we want to have more,” explained Katherine Solomon, Ardastra’s director. “We have slowly evolved from a recreational centre to an educational centre more focused on conservation. The name change more accurately depicts who we are today then who we were 10 or 20 years ago.”
The rebranding is serious business for Mrs Solomon. Indeed, it should be. Founded in 1937, by Jamaican horticulturist Hedley Edwards, Ardastra predates an independent Bahamas. When it opened, the nature preserve featured exotic and tropical flora of The Bahamas at the Chippingham-based site. In the ensuing years, the botanical gardens morphed into a tourist attraction. Later, the Caribbean flamingos were brought to Ardastra for breeding purposes when the species became endangered in the 1950s.
Mrs Solomon’s late husband, Norman, is credited with adding the zoological aspect to Ardastra following his purchase of the more than four-acre property in the early 1980s. Today over 200 creatures representing 50 species live in the gardens. The centre offers close encounters with the parading pink flamingos, rainbow lorikeets, peafowl and parrots. “Historically speaking, conservation has always been a part of our message: why people should conserve and preserve their environment, why they need to understand the importance of animals and the role they play in the world. Now, we’ve expanded our platform to concentrate on recreation and conservation in equal measure,” said Mrs Solomon. Through its “Zooniversity”, Ardastra offers a wide range of lessons and guided tours aligned with the Ministry of Education’s science curriculum.
Its course catalogue features dozens of educational topics which can be tailored according to grade level. As a part of its rebranding initiative, Ardastra will review its educational offerings to ensure it’s in alignment with its new conservation thrust and to identify any areas for improvement. Last year Ardastra began publicizing its work with distressed wildlife. In 2019, the centre accepted just under 100 rescue animals. In this regard, it has been on an upward trajectory since it began tracking such figures in 2018. That year Ardastra accepted 79 animals. “Every single day people bring animals to us and we attempt to nurture them back to health. If we are able, then they are released and that is considered an act of conservation. There are those animals that arrive in very poor condition and we are not able to rehab them. Unfortunately, they succumb. Otherwise, they become a part of our permanent collection and we continue to care for them,” said Mrs Solomon. “The ultimate goal is to continue with our breeding programs for our indigenous species such as the Caribbean flamingo, the Bahama parrot and others native to The Bahamas.”
With its broader mandate Ardastra hopes to create new collaborations and deepen existing partnerships with advocacy groups, businesses and organizations concerned not only with animals but also the environment at large. It will also continue to place the 4Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose – centre stage in its work.