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The Zoo has welcomed a new resident this week with the arrival of a female Madagascan Golden Orb Weaver spider (Nephila inaurata madagascariensis), and keepers have designed a specially made enclosure with glass on both sides, so that visitors really can ‘get closer’ to this fascinating eight-legged resident!

Senior Keeper, Tristen Holmes said, ‘Spiders aren’t a favourite for a lot of people, but we wanted to give visitors the opportunity to really appreciate the beauty in all animals, and learn about a ‘day in the life’ of an Orb Weaver! Spiders are often overlooked by conservationists, but they are an essential part of any ecosystem, and need protection alongside all animals whose habitat is under threat’

Golden Orb weavers are native to Madagascar as their name suggests, but can also be found in other parts of southern Africa. The females are six-times the size of the males and can grow to the size of adult human hand, they have large fangs but aren’t aggressive, and their venom is not dangerous to humans. This species of spider is known for the intricate webs they create – made of golden silk – which can be up to six foot across, in order to capture large prey such as the Madagascan Moon moth. If they need protein, or the web has been damaged they will eat their creation, and start building again the next day. These spiders have been known to group together in their thousands and join webs in colonies.

Their webs have been used to make clothing in the past, and British designer Simon Peers revived this tradition in 2012 by completing an intricate silk cape created over four years, which was subsequently displayed in the Victoria & Albert museum in London.

Golden Orb Weavers are not listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), however, along with many other Madagascan animals there are threats to their natural habitat from deforestation and pollution.

Visitors can find this amazing arachnid in the Zoos’ tropical house.
 

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