Carnivore conservation

A new choose-your-own-adventure board game created by researchers from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology puts players centre-stage in a global carnivore conservation challenge. The educational game is launching a Kickstarter fundraising campaign today and here co-designer Dr Cedric Tan tells us all about it…

Have you ever wondered what it’s like being a conservation biologist? We have spent the past year creating and testing a brand new board game – The WildCRU Game: Global Carnivore Conservation – that reveals some of the challenges faced by conservationists, the animals themselves, and the indigenous people who live with them. We’re now looking to get the game out to schools and communities all across the world with a £40,000 Kickstarter funding campaign featuring lots of rewards and discounts for our backers.

The game has been co-designed by Jennifer Spencer and myself to appeal to non-scientists and people of different ages. Players work together cooperatively as WildCRU researchers to gather the resources to complete carnivore conservation projects across the globe.

Stories in the game are taken directly from the real experiences of the WildCRU team. Players must decide what to do in choose-your-own-adventure-style encounters to gather the equipment, personnel, and transport resources they need for their projects.

In developing this game, we chose six varied WildCRU projects including the Hwange Lion Research project, based in Zimbabwe, and the famous water vole study in the UK, to show players the breadth of WildCRU’s research.
– Co-designer Jennifer Spencer, WildCRU

Multiple choice research questions are also based on real WildCRU research; they reveal more about the environment of each project – the flora, herbivores, competitor carnivores, and study species of the study sites. With the additional pressure of Global Events, players will learn about how difficult wildlife conservation projects can be.

It has been great to see that the game appeals to both kids and adults. People have found it to be an immersive experience in which players experience the challenges of real people, real situations and real research. We also hope that the game will provide local families with the opportunity to learn about the wildlife around them, and how to live in harmony alongside it.

Through the game and our other education efforts we’re hoping to increase environmental awareness and to introduce a wide variety of people to the science and processes behind real-world conservation.

Images and video: Laurie Hedges (

Stories from Stone, Body and Bone

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Each year the Museum works with members of the community on a wide variety of projects using our collections to enthuse and engage people in natural history. These projects often result in some amazing outcomes but until now we have been unable to find the right space to celebrate this work in the Museum. So this month we are very happy to unveil our new Community Case, dedicated to doing just that.

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Stories from Stone, Body and Bone in the new community case

Our opening display focuses on the Children in Need-funded Story Makers programme. In partnership with Fusion Arts, this initiative helps Oxford primary school pupils to develop their communication skills by taking inspiration from museum collections. And this year they teamed up with us to create Stories from Stone, Body and Bone.

Pupils from New Marston, Wood Farm, and Rose Hill Primary schools worked with Story Makers founder and arts psychotherapist Helen Edwards in two visits to the Museum, stimulating and developing imaginative ideas, stories and artwork.

During these visits the Story Makers met with our education officer Chris Jarvis and together they looked at rocks and minerals, tectonic plate formation, and the evolution of skeletons and animal posture. They explored the collections creatively through sensory observation, using the hands, body and senses to develop self-awareness and self-confidence.

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Getting creative with chalks and textiles

We work with the children as artists and we carefully designed a series of sessions that enabled them to have direct sensory engagement with objects in the museum. We then used art processes to portray their experiences and feelings about their interactions.
Helen Edwards, Integrative Arts Psychotherapist

Back at school, the pupils used visual art, drama, movement and modelling to communicate feelings and ideas that emerged from these museum encounters, sharing thoughts with the group in a playful and trusting atmosphere.

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Group sessions back at school involving movement, drama and art

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Detail from one of the Stone Age caves

Each Story Maker then created a Stone Age character – someone who might dream up and pass on stories full of meaning and myth. They imagined places in which their Stone Age characters might live, thinking about what they might see looking out from these spaces, through the cracks, crevices and windows in their caves.

From these ideas emerged beautiful, bright, and colourful models of these fictional abodes, as well as stories and poetry about their characters.

Story Makers built the children’s capacity to think reflectively, enriching their speech and language, and helped them to develop their writing skills as the stories were compiled into Story Makers books.

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Stone Age houses and landscapes as part of the Stories from Stone, Body and Bone project

Everyone should get to do this, it is like a dream come true
Story Maker, from the Stories from Stone, Body and Bone project

Stories from Stone, Body and Bone is on display until Sunday 21 May in our new Community Case. The next display, installed on 22 May, will feature artwork by our community of artists who use the collections as inspiration for their work.