13 March 2023

London Zoo begins nationwide search for the UK’s 30 most frightened arachnophobes - to celebrate 30 years of the Zoo’s Friendly Spider Programme

National Save a Spider Day – 14 March

Friendly Spider Programme logo

Is your fear of spiders ruining your life? Maybe you’re an expectant parent not wanting to pass your fear to your child? Or a student about to leave home, unable to cope with the thought of facing arachnids alone? Perhaps your whole family is ruled by fright? If your fear of our eight-legged friends verges on the extreme, London Zoo wants to help you.

To celebrate 30 years of its successful Friendly Spider Programme, the conservation zoo is searching for the 30 most terrified arachnophobes in the UK, to face their fears during a special anniversary event this May.

The programme, famous for converting bug-squishers into spider lovers, has helped more than 5,000 arachnophobes - travelling from as far as away America and Australia to take part - and has an impressive 99% success rate.

London Zoo’s Friendly Spider Programme course leader Dave Clarke said: “For three decades we’ve made it our mission to squash myths about our eight-legged friends and help people overcome their fear of spiders - as part of ZSL’s work protecting species in the UK and across the world.

“Arachnophobia can be a very intense and debilitating fear. Previous participants on the programme have been unable to hear the word ‘spider’ without feeling ill, some can’t look at the green leafy tops of tomatoes because they are reminded of spiders, while others have gone as far as to sell their house after seeing a spider - one even confided they’d dropped their baby after seeing a spider close by. However extreme, we’ve helped them all.”

In just four short hours on 27 May, the 30 participants will learn all about these incredible and important invertebrates from zoo experts, take part in a hypnotherapy session run in partnership with the Centre of Clinical Hypnosis, before heading into the Zoo’s Tiny Giants habitat, home to the UK’s first walk-through spider habitat ‘In with the Spiders’

Dave Clarke with an insect on the back of his hand at London Zoo

The Zoo’s team of spider specialists aim to have all 30 arachnophobes confident enough to catch native house spiders with a cup and card by the end of the afternoon, earning themselves a certificate of success and an opportunity to meet bird-eating spider Rosie - helping them towards a lifetime free from fear.

The Friendly Spider Programme is part of ZSL’s core mission to inspire change and protect species, and supports a number of ZSL’s conservation projects for invertebrates, both at home and abroad - including the successful reintroduction of the native semi-aquatic Fen raft spider, which is listed as Endangered in the UK, but is now increasing its range due to conservation efforts. 

“Not only does this programme help people face their fears, it also protects spiders, fosters respect for nature and raises funds for ZSL’s important work protecting threatened invertebrates in the UK and around the world,” added Dave.

“So if you think you’re one of the 30 most frightened arachnophobes in the UK, get in touch and tell us how your fear affects you – we want to help.”  

The Friendly Spider Programme’s fear-busting 30th celebration will take place on 27 May 2023 at London Zoo. To learn more and apply for one of 30 exclusive free places head to www.londonzoo.org/friendly. Applications close at midnight on 3 April 2023.

Apply for a free place on the Programme

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