WILDLIFE education experts at Chester Zoo have released tens of thousands of free tickets to schoolchildren.

The ticket giveaway, which launched on Monday, February 3, will allow 42,000 youngsters to visit the zoo as part of an organised educational trip.

Zoo educators are particularly keen for the tickets to reach children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The initiative is part of the conservation and education charity’s ongoing efforts to prevent extinction – by inspiring a new wave of conservationists and harnessing the passion of young people to protect the future of the planet and its wildlife.

The zoo has, for some time, been calling for educational reform and pushing for conservation action to be embedded into the curriculum of all schools in the UK, having already seen it work successfully in the north west of England.

Meanwhile, scientific studies, carried out by leading academics, have shown that people have a significantly better understanding of biodiversity and conservation after a visit to the zoo.

Nicola Buckley, Chester Zoo’s discovery and learning manager, said: “For many schoolchildren, a visit to the zoo is what sparks a lifelong conservation journey. These are the conservationists of the future and some will go on to play a vital role in preventing extinction all around the world.

“Over a million species are faced with extinction and we must galvanise the power of our young people to help protect our environment.

"Bringing schoolchildren to the zoo for free is about inspiring the next generation to connect with nature and to find their own ways to be conservationists in their day-to-day lives.

"It’s to help equip youngsters with the skills, attitudes and motivation they need to play an active role in tackling the environmental challenges we face today.”

This year, for the first time, every school will also receive a free resource pack to make the most of their visit.

Pupils from nursery, primary and secondary schools, spanning early years and foundation groups all the way up to Year 13 can take advantage of the free places, for weekday visits between November 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021 during Cheshire West and Chester term time. Home educators are eligible to apply as a group through a Home Educators’ Network.

Priority will be given to schools that have not benefited from the scheme in the past two years.

A maximum daily capacity of bookings will be in place to avoid overcrowding and ensure every child, and visitor, is able to enjoy a world class day out.

Schools are advised to apply early via www.chesterzoo.org/events/free-school-visits.

A range of in-zoo workshops are available at an extra cost and free post-visit learning resources are also available for schools at www.chesterzoo.org/schools/resources/.

Chester Zoo’s major Safari Ranger outreach programme also already delivers free sessions to schools throughout the North West of England and North Wales.

Experts from the zoo also train community group leaders in habitat conservation, work with local field partners to protect endangered species and engage families and young people on site in Chester every day.