PROJECTING HOPE: Twycross Zoo teams up with University of Nottingham on futuristic hologram project to raise awareness of critically endangered animals.

14th Aug 2023

The project is the first of its kind in a UK zoo, projecting holograms of critically endangered species to inspire and educate the public about the threats they face and how we can help.

The project, aptly entitled ‘Projecting Hope’, provides a novel, attention-grabbing and brand-new way for visitors to discover and engage with endangered species. Using exciting technology, developed at the University of Portsmouth, the zoo will project 50cm holograms of critically endangered Javan rhinos and endangered African elephants. Alongside the hologram, the exhibition will also feature light-up infographics, and engaging displays explaining the threats of these iconic species and the work that can be done to protect them.

At the end of the one-year installation, the project will be evaluated by both Dr. Richard Sands and Dr. Lisa Yon, to understand its impact on the zoo’s visitors. Focussing on the emotions provoked, and the immediate action the exhibit prompts; this research will help to support future conservation-led public engagement projects, not only at the zoo, but as a resource for others across the UK and the world.

Elephants and rhinos are both recognisable as iconic animals, but they are also keystone species, vitally important for the ecosystems of their native habitats. Sadly, both are at risk of extinction due to human actions.

  • Javan rhinos are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with only 76 remaining in the entire world, all in Ujong Kulon National Park on the island of Java, Indonesia. For most people, seeing the hologram is the only way they will ever see this incredibly rare species.
  • All three species of elephants are endangered: the Asian elephant, the African savannah elephant and the critically endangered African forest elephants. Unlike the Javan rhino, they are part of conservation breeding programmes across the world to help support a healthy population of the species in captivity. The Elephant Welfare Project supports research to understand and improve the welfare of captive elephants, to ensure the best outcome for the conservation of these species.
Projecting Hope Hologram - Javan rhino hologram at Twycross Zoo


Watch the amazing hologram in action on ITV Central News...

Dr. Richard Sands, Conservation Education Manager at Twycross Zoo said:

“We are in the midst of a mass extinction crisis, with one million plant and animal species at risk right now. This project is a fantastic way to raise our visitors’ awareness of two iconic species, in a cool and futuristic new way.

“Sadly, most of us will never get to see a Javan rhino in real-life, but the work happening at zoos like ours across the country, will help to preserve important species like the Eastern black rhino that are part of a breeding programme at Twycross Zoo.

“It’s through our visitors’ support that we can continue this vital work, and it’s exciting to give them a new experience to engage and learn about animals in a way that no other UK zoo has ever done before.”

In the heart of the country, at Twycross Zoo, the team are working hard to protect rhinos from extinction. As home to a pair of critically endangered Eastern black rhinos, they are part of an EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) which is designed to maintain a healthy population of the species in captivity and support their wild counterparts. Recently the zoo’s expert team have begun introducing the rhinos, in hopes that they will become a successful breeding pair.

Twycross Zoo and the University of Nottingham have worked in collaboration since 2006, with the University being a major supporter of the zoo, funding a new Vet Centre and previously working together on the Elephant Welfare Project. The Elephant Welfare Project, based at the University of Nottingham, works with zoo keepers, mahouts, non-governmental organisations and scientists in the UK and internationally to identify ways that best support the continued well-being of captive elephants, and in the long run, help secure the future of these species.

Dr. Lisa Yon, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, and Founding Director of the Elephant Welfare Project said:

“There is no doubting that humans are the reason both elephants and rhinos are at risk of extinction, but they can also be the solution.

“I’m thrilled to have collaborated on this project with Richard and the team at Twycross Zoo, as a key visitor attraction in the region, it provides an exceptional platform for our work. The more people that we can engage with these critically endangered species, the stronger our impact can be.

“I look forward to seeing the results of the project and the continued efforts to save these species from extinction.”

Dr. Yon and Dr. Sands have been working with a team of academics from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth to bring this project to life. The two holograms have been designed by the team at the University of Portsmouth and use an innovative new technology to create a 3D, moving hologram, which visitors to Twycross Zoo will be able to witness first-hand, getting closer than ever to these species.

Dr. Rebecca Biddle, Director of Conservation at Twycross Zoo said:

“We’re really proud to be launching such an exciting project in collaboration with the University of Nottingham. They’ve been huge supporters of Twycross Zoo for almost 20 years and this project helps highlight the strength of collaboration in making an impact for endangered species.

“As a charity fighting the extinction crisis, one of our goals is to inspire the next generation to make positive changes for wildlife, the hologram is a perfect example of how we can do this through innovative new ways, in a world that is led by technology and exciting experiences.

“It will be great for visitors to see something spectacular and futuristic on their visits this August, but also to see our real-life rhinos and learn more about the impact their support for Twycross Zoo has on saving endangered species across the world.

“We want to live in a world where animals can stay real, and every visit to our charity zoo helps us stay one step closer to that goal.”

Visitors can explore the hologram exhibition from Tuesday 15 August, for free, as part of their Twycross Zoo ticket; they can also discover real-life critically endangered Eastern black rhinos and hundreds of other amazing animals at the zoo’s 100-acre site.


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