Wednesday, 4 November 2015

October's Photo of the Month

"T+T = Togetherness" by Helen Haden

October looks like it was a good month for photographers! Lots of pictures have been shared in various places on the web, including our first glimpse of one of our new otter cubs. I could have quite easily chosen one of many number of cracking photos that I have seen, but I have gone with this photo above sent in via email taken by Helen Haden of keeper Tom, and Tyrion the little owl.

I think this photo speaks for itself... a beautiful capture of the connection between our keepers and the animals, and the close bond they form with each other. Little Tom giving Tyrion some words of encouragement before a flying display, lost in the moment, and the expression on the owls face is priceless. A great photo which Helen should be proud of.

Helen's photo will be on display in our coffee shop gallery throughout next year, and be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre if chosen out of the final 12 images by a professional photographer.

To see more of Helen Haden's photographs, follow the link in here name to visit her flickr page.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Otter Cub's 1st Outing!

Well, I promised you news as soon as we saw our otter cubs out... so here you are. This afternoon one of them was out on one of the islands!

What?.. you can't see him int he photo above?.. Well here you go...

OK, it was far away and through a lot of leaves... but he was there. I was down by the otters in the afternoon, and heard a racket coming from the main pond. A real high pitched squeal repeated. I knew it was one of the cubs, but kept quiet thinking he would just settle or mum would go get him. After 20 minutes though I thought it best I check, so went in to have a look. He was on one of the islands, and obviously didn't know what to do.

With me there though it wasn't long before Emmy came over and swore at me. I stepped out, and she went to the cub and spent a few minutes with him on the island. A few lucky people were around to see him, and helpfully pointed him out to me when back on the pathway.

After a while Emmy just pushed him in to the water, and then grabbed him by the scruff and took him back to the holt.

A little earlier than I expected to see one out, but then the mothers do move them around before they venture out on there own. This was a lucky sighting, so who nows when we will see them again. I still think a couple more weeks until regular sightings occur... but who knows. He may have got his taste for the wide open world now!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Polecat Release

Earlier this week our polecat kits were collected as part of national release programme. Other centres who breed polecats as part of this group met with us here at the Centre, and one of the group co-ordinators (Lily and Steve from Ferret Rescue Surrey) came to collect them all and prepare them for their release.

You may remember that Whitstable and Oriel had 5 kits this year. They turned out to be one female and 4 males, including one very VERY feisty one! At the end of the summer we took them off display to give mum a break, and allow Whitstable to return to his home.

While off display it allowed us to reduce the contact of people to an absolute minimum, allowing them to revert to being as wild as possible in a captive situation. By the time we had to catch them up for collection they were very weary of people and no longer coming out to see what was going on around them.

The last couple of months their food has been less prepared than our adult polecats food. What I mean by this, is rather than skin, gut and section a rabbit for example... we would feed them a dead rabbit whole so that they could learn what wild food is, and how to eat it.

Of course, a lot of the skills they will need to survive are based on instinct, and on what they have practiced through play. We will miss these little ones, but through releases such as these we have helped bring polecats back from the brink of extinction and improve their coverage over the UK.

Fingers crossed for another successful litter from Oriel next year!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Half Term Opening

Just a reminder that we are open every day of the week next week for half term. Monday the 26th - Friday the 30th of October. Of course, we are still open for the weekends too throughout the year.

The weather is getting colder, but the autumn is a great time to come and see out animals. Our red deer are coming to the end of their rutting season, but Albus is still putting on a good show. The past few days has seen our fallow buck begin to bark too... so if you do visit next week, make sure to spend some time with our deer. There will be some good behaviour on display down there from our two dominant males!

Next week is also the last week before we change to our winter schedule of times and talks, and so the last opportunity to see our hedgehog talk, badger talk and pine marten talk until the following year.

After next week our hedgehogs will go in to hibernation, and although badgers do not hibernate they do cut their activity down a lot... You will still be able to see them in their inside sett however.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Wildcat Testing

In a previous post I mentioned that we had our wildcat DNA results in, but one had to be re-tested due to a mix up. Well... a couple of weeks a go all of our cats were due their annual vaccination booster, so this provided the best opportunity to to give them all a full health check and carry out a few record taking tasks.

How do you catch a wildcat? With great difficulty!...

Actually, it's not too bad when you know what you are doing. Keeper Izzy has helped me on many occasions in the past, and with her help we soon had them netted. Our zoo vet, Alan Jones, was on stand by and so within seconds of them being netted we had them restrained and sedated.

After a quick check, record photographs where taken of their pelage (coat markings), as well as key measurements of their anatomy... tail length, hind foot etc. These where all sent off to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland where they are building a database of these statistics, and DNA, of all captive wildcats to see the correlation between results and have a full understanding of the captive population.

Vaccination boosters where given to all, and the reaming cat had a blood sample taken to be sent of for testing. Once all done, the cats where given the reversal, and soon came round.

I mentioned previously that our cats are deemed pure enough for breeding purposes, and so we hope to be able to breed them again next year. The kittens are always very popular, and have such great characters. Not only will this be lovely to share with you all again, but it will be great to be able to directly help with the conservation efforts currently going on with Scottish wildcats.