A story about an urban gym being created for portly squirrels at the University of Nottingham has been unveiled as an April Fool.
The University published the story on their website and social media feeds shortly after midnight this morning (1st April 2016).
Shortly afterwards #Fatsquirrels was trending in Nottingham with social media users enjoying the images of the tubby rodents.
Some even took to Twitter to share their own pictures – one eating a Bakewell Tart.
But of course, in April Fool tradition, by midday it was time to come clean.
Taking inspiration from the Active Trail which was launched in September 2015 the University claimed they were going to create a miniature version of the urban gym for squirrels after noticing their expanding waistlines.
Dr Gabriele Neher, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts, photographs the rich wildlife at University Park Campus for her blog The Beasts of UoN.
She said: “All images used in the release were genuine, not photoshopped, and as you can see on the blog there are lots that look a little on the large side. The idea of them having to have a gym installed is hilarious but stranger things have happened. Perhaps the idea of them in lycra working out to up beat tunes was just too much for some people!”
April Fools' Day (sometimes called All Fools' Day) is celebrated every year on 1 April by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes.Over the years elaborate practical jokes have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, web sites,. In one famous prank from 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day.
Liz Webster, Head of Media Relations at the University, said: “We hope people saw the funny side of our April Fool and even if they didn’t believe it we think it will have raised a smile. Thanks to everyone who played along and especially Dan Tilley and Dr Gaby Neher for being such good sports.”
Tubby squirrels will be put through their paces at The University of Nottingham after overindulging during the winter months.
After staff and students at University Park Campus noticed bulging waist lines of the bushy-tailed creatures they raised concerns with their colleagues in the Department of Sport.
Taking inspiration from the Active Trail which was launched in September 2015 the team decided to create a smaller version of the urban gym for squirrels.
The miniature gym, The Squirrel Trail, takes in a number of training stations including wheels, ladders and parallel bars so the rodents can work off the excess pounds.
As an added incentive if the squirrels complete all of the exercises on the course they can access a healthy treat.
Researchers at the university also discovered the animals were more encouraged to exercise if they were also listening to an upbeat tempo.
A sound system will be installed in the trees close to Highfields Park and low level music will play for an hour each day.
Dr Gabriele Neher, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts, first noticed the squirrels while taking photographs for her blog The Beasts of UoN.
She said: “Looking back through my pictures I noticed the squirrels seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. They do gain weight in the winter because they don’t hibernate but their reserves seem to be even bigger this year.”
Other social media users agreed with one, @Upsquirrel, even setting up a Twitter account.
Dan Tilley, Director of Physical Recreation and Sports at The University of Nottingham, said: “We took advice from some of our colleagues who undertook a three month study into squirrel activity.“
"Despite the woodland and green space on campus there was not as much activity as we would have hoped.
“The University is invested in healthy futures for our campus community and the animals that live in our estate are no exception to this.
“This is part of a continued investment in sports and in an Olympic year it is particularly pertinent that we are encouraging healthy behaviour and that is why we are keen to endorse the mini urban gym.”
To avoid further human interference in squirrel athletics the precise location of the gym will be confidential and Mr Tilley was keen to stress that exercise music would not be audible by other users of the grounds.
He said: “A lot of care has been taken to ensure that those that enjoy walking through our campus will not be affected by the music and are unlikely to spot the gym.”
This latest initiative by the University into its sporting facilities follows the start of construction earlier this year on its £40m new sports complex on University Park, called the David Ross Sports Village.
The new development, which is due for completion in summer 2016, will help to deliver the University’s ambition to increase participation in sport at all levels, from encouraging children to experience a range of new sporting pastimes, through to the enhancement of elite performance at a national and international level.
Watch the squirrels feasting on nuts in our video.
Building work on The Squirrel Trail will begin on Friday 1 April 2016.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for three years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…