Saturday, 27 June 2009

Wildwood e-news June 2009
In the June edition of Wildwood's e-newsletter we have:
1.   SO UGLY THEY ARE CUTE - Eagle owl chicks hand reared
2.   PHOTO DAYS - Take photos of animals around the park
3.   FOAL RESCUE- Dover Konik foal injured
4.   KENT RIGS FOSSIL DAY - Fossil Roadshow & Fossil Hunt
5.   WILDFORT - Official opening by local school
6.   MEMBERS WEEKEND - Behind the scenes and meet an animal
7.   CHRIS THE FOX FULL OF BEANS - Chris back to full health
8.   TENTH BIRTHDAY PARTY - Members invited
9.   SOUTH SWALE HAVE NEW FOAL- First youngster of the year for South Swale herd

1.  SO UGLY THEY ARE CUTE - Eagle owl chicks hand reared
Two members of the dedicated Wildwood keeper team are hand rearing two eagle owl chicks after their mum couldn't look after them.
The demanding chicks were adopted by Cali Bebbington and Christine Reed after mum had started to ignore them and the keepers made the hard decision to intervene as their was concern they would die.
The two are keeping Cali and Christine up as they need regular feeding but they are putting on weight, their eyes are opening and both are doing very well
The chicks are very vocal and they make different noises when picked up or when they want food.
"They look like little goblins" commented Cali Bebbington Keeper at Wildwood "but they are very cute and at first I was very worried and kept checking on him all the time but he is really getting on well."
Eagle owls were UK residents after the last ice age and as populations recover across Europe it is possible that eagle owls will once again colonise the UK. The two chicks will be trained to the glove so that that they can be used around the park to help educate our visitors.

Bubo Bubo
Description: This eagle owl is the largest and most powerful owl in Europe, about (27 inches) in length. It has a large beak and enormous talons but its most noticeable features are the striking orange eyes. It has prominent ear tufts, which are raised or lowered depending on its mood. The plumage is mostly mottled but with bolder streaks on the breast.
Habitat: Can be found from Europe across Russia to Pacific, South to Iran, Pakistan across to China and Korea. Eagle Owls occupy a variety of habitats, from coniferous forests to warm deserts. Rocky landscapes are often favoured. Adequate food supply and nesting sites seem to be the most important prerequisites.
Diet: Will eat almost anything the moves - from beetles to deer fawns. The major part of their diet consists of mammals (Voles, rats, mice, foxes, hares etc...), but birds of all kinds are also taken, including crows, ducks, grouse, seabirds, and even other birds of prey (including other owls). Other prey taken includes snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and crabs.

Reproduction: Usually breeding begins in late winter. 1-4 eggs are laid on a shelter cliff ledge, in a crevice or a sheltered depression on the ground. The eggs are incubated for about 35 days. The young leave the nest by about 5 weeks and can normally fly within a further 3 weeks. They become independent by about 24 weeks old. In the wild, they live for approximately 20 years, but they can live more than 60 years in captivity.


Females are one third larger than males.
No owl builds their own nest.

An owl’s eyes do not move instead owls can move their heads almost three quarters around in each direction without moving their body.

(Photo credit Martyn Nicholls)

2.   PHOTO DAYS - Take photos of animals around the park
Wildwood is offering the opportunity to take photos of our animals with our resident phtographer Ryan Ladbrook.
These days will allow photographers of all skills levels the chance to get close to and photograph British animals, at the same time Ryan will be on hand to give help and advice on how to get those special shots.
Different animals will be photographed across the day.
Days will run from 10:30 – 12:30 and 1:30 – 3:30 allowing an hour for lunch when you can make use of our restaurant or bring your own packed lunch.
The days will have a minimum of four people up to a maximum of 10.
The cost will be £75 per person.
These unique days are on Saturday June13th & Saturday September 19th with further dates later in the year.
If you would like to book or would like more information please contact Martyn on 01227 712111 or e-mail
All information and booking form available on download
(Photo credit Ken Blackwell)

3.  FOAL RESCUE- Dover Konik foal injured
In an innovative, new partnership between Wildwood Trust, The White Cliffs Countryside Project and Dover Town Council a herd of wild horses has been set free on Hospital Down to help breath life into an area of chalk downland.
The horses have been doing a great job of clearing the land of unwanted plants and the area is beginning to regenerate helping to increase the biodiversity of this rare habitat.
The local community have really taken the herd to their heart and many of the residents keep an eye on the horses.
Unfortunately a week ago Wildwood was contacted by locals as well as a number of agencies (including the police, RSPCA and the White Cliffs) to notify us that the foal had a nasty gash on his leg.
Our vet visited the youngster (who is only six weeks old) and decided that he needed to get a closer look. So a team from Wildwood travelled down to Dover to herd the horses and catch the young foal.
After capturing the youngster  - which took 5 people, the vet (Ian Cope) was concerned that the wound had gone septic and would not heal on its own.
The foal was transported in to Dover town centre to the vets surgery where the wound was given a local anasthetic, cleaned and stitched (7 altogether) and given a series of injections. He was then taken back to his mum.
Witnesses have said that the wound was caused by the foal being chased by a dog, and the youngster lost his footing and cut himself on a piece of flint. Wildwood has also received a number of complaints about youngsters chasing and throwing stones at the horses. This type of behaviour is only from a minority of people (and we have received overwhelming support from the community for the horses and the valuable work they are doing on hospital down) However, the White Cliffs Countryside Project and Wildwood will prosecute any person caught worrying or hurting these animals.
Local people are welcome to enjoy High Meadow but can also help with practical work to conserve wildlife and improve footpaths. Further information from WCCP (01304 241806); the next volunteer conservation days are on Tuesday 10th March and Tuesday 24th March. The WCCP will also be organising some guided walks and Green Gang events to introduce people to High Meadow and to learn more about the Konik horses. Local people can also help keep a watchful eye on High Meadow; contact the WCCP to find out more about becoming a voluntary warden.
The Konik (Polish: konik polski) or Polish primitive horse is a small horse, a kind of semi-wild pony, originating in Poland. The Polish word konik (plural koniki) is the diminutive of kon, the Polish word for "horse" (sometimes confused with kuc, kucyk meaning "pony"). However, the name "konik" or "Polish konik" is used to refer to certain specific breeds. Koniks show many primitive features, for example some breeds have the dun coat and dorsal stripe.
In 1936, Professor Tadeusz Vetulani of Poznan University began attempts to breed the recently extinct tarpan back to its original state. To achieve this he used horses from the Bilgoraj area descended from wild tarpans captured in 1780 in Bialowieza Forest and kept until 1808 in Zamoyski zoo. These had later been given to local peasants and crossbred with domestic horses. The Polish government commandeered all the koniks that displayed tarpan-like features. The result of this selective breeding program is that semi-wild herds of koniks can be seen today in many nature reserves and parks, and can also be seen in the last refugium in Bialowieza Forest.
Vetulani's breeding program is one of several attempts at breeding back the Tarpan. Other programs resulted in the Heck horse.
(Photo credit Martyn Nicholls)

4.   KENT RIGS FOSSIL DAY - Fossil Roadshow & Fossil Hunt
On Sunday June 21st Wildwood is hosting a Kent RIGS (Regionally Important Geological and geomorphological Sites) fossil day. In the morning members of RIGS will be bringing their fossil road show to the education centre.
Visitors will be able to see examples of many of the fossils that can be found in the local area, like sharks teeth, mammoth bone, ammonites and sea urchins.
This is a free event so please just drop in (though please member that either membership or entry to the park must be paid to gain access to this event).
In the afternoon there will be an opportunity, with the expert guidance of RIGS members, to get your hands dirty looking for fossils of your own at Long Rock at Swalecliffe. Last year was a great success with vertebrae and other bones, sea urchins and fossilised wood being found. This event needs to be prebooked and costs £2 per person with one adult going free with each family.
To book please call the office on 01227 712111.
(Photo Credit Anne Riddell - Vertebrae found by Rayner family at last year)

5.   WILDFORT - Official opening by local school
On Thursday 7th May 2009 Wildwood's fort was officially opened to the public by a representative from B&Q - Annette Dowler, and St Ronan's year 2's were the first school group to use the facilities.
The Wildwood play area has been constantly improved, including work to make it more disabled and special needs accessible. The play area is intended to allow access to disabled and special needs children. To help all our child visitors to enjoy the playground, Wildwood has purchased specially designed equipment, built ramps in the fort and laid good paths within the play area. Special rubber matting has been laid (below slides around swings) where there is any chance of falling.
The play area now contains a mixture of commercially available play equipment such as the zip slide and basket swings, funded by Viridor, and new structures such as the Wild Fort that was designed and built by our own ranger team.
Building a quality play area of this type is expensive, and without the generous support of a number of organisations it would not have happened. We received grants from The Hedley Foundation of £3,000 and the Tory Family Foundation of £500. We also received gifts of materials from B & Q to the value of £250, and timber was donated by Jewsons and Burbridge to the value of £1,000 each.
Wildwood’s ranger team are already planning the next phases of the play area. It is hoped to extend the existing fort as well as include additional slides. There will also be a “Badger Sett” and other pieces of equipment set up.
Fort Opening - Back row left to right Dave Perks (Ranger Wildwood), Chris Towner (Head Ranger Wildwood), Howard Hirst (Ranger Wildwood), Annette Dowler (B&Q), Steve McMullen(Ranger Wildwood), Mick Croud (Senior Ranger Wildwood). Children from Year 2 St Ronans.
(Photo credit Martyn Nicholls)

6.   MEMBERS WEEKEND - Behind the scenes and meet an animal
On Saturday and Sunday July 11-12th Wildwood is holding it's annual members weekend.
For children there is a meet the animal session at 10:30, 11:00, 11:30. 12:00 and 12:30. These are 15 minutes long and children will be introduced to one of our small animals, this is for children of members only and they must be accompanied by an adult.
For adults there will be a behind the scenes with dormice session at 2:00 & 3:30. Members (18+) can spend an hour learning about dormice and our breeding & conservation programmes.
These events must be booked so please contact the office on 01227 712111
(Photo credit Veronika Lenarth)

7.    CHRIS THE FOX FULL OF BEANS - Chris back to full health
Last year Chris the fox moved in to Wildwood joining Ellie our other hand reared red fox.
Chris was rescued after he was found wandering, all alone, in Gillingham but despite the best efforts of the Fox Project and Susan Chadwick one of their volunteers he was simply too tame to make it back in the wild.
Initially Chris was very friendly often being seen by visitors in his enclosure but unfortunately over the months keepers noticed Chris was acting strangely and then one of them saw him having a fit.
The keeper team called in our vet to check Chris out and it was discovered that he was suffering from epilepsy. The vet put him on medication which initially seemed to solve the problem but again a few months later he was not well again.
The vets changed his medication and Chris is now back to his playful self and once again visitors can see Chris playing in his enclosure, the picture of health.
"When Chris started to sleep all day and not want to play we had an idea there was something wrong" Cali Bebbington a Wildwood Keeper commented " and when one of us saw him having a fit we knew he was not well, but his new medication is working a treat"

The Fox Vulpes vulpes


Reddish orange fur, small dog sized; thick bushy tail in winter
Head/body length: average 67-72cm for males; 62-67cm for females; tail about 40cm
Weight: average 6-7kg for males; 5-6kg for females.

General Ecology:

A highly adaptable species, found in nearly all habitats from salt marshes and sand dunes to the tops of mountains. In Britain, more than elsewhere in Europe, foxes have also adapted to life in urban surroundings.
Foxes hold territories, the size of which depends on habitat; they can be as small as 0.2 square kilometres in urban areas or up to 40 square kilometres in hill country. Each territory is occupied by a fox family group. These often consist of a pair - dog fox and vixen - and their cubs. However, in areas where foxes are not persecuted and where there is a plentiful supply of food, a family group may contain several adults.
Foxes have a very wide and varied diet. On salt marshes they eat crabs and dead seabirds, while in upland regions carrion may be important, particularly during the winter months. In lowland rural areas small mammals, especially field voles and rabbits, are the major source of food, with earthworms, beetles, fruit (particularly blackberries) and small birds also being eaten.
Urban foxes glean large amounts of food. Much of this is deliberately supplied by local householders, and is supplemented by scavenging from dustbins, birdtables and compost heaps. Unlike rural foxes, those living in some urban areas eat many small birds and feral pigeons.
Usually only one vixen in a group produces cubs, once a year in the spring. Litters average four to five cubs which are born blind and deaf in a den (called an earth). The earth may be dug by the foxes, or they may enlarge a rabbit burrow or use holes made by other animals. In urban areas cubs are often born under garden sheds. A vixen stays in the earth with her cubs for the first two weeks of their lives. At about four weeks old, usually in late April or early May, cubs begin to come into the open, when they are often seen by city householders.
Foxes generally do not live very long; although they have been recorded up to nine years old in the wild, most survive only one or two years.


Foxes have little legal protection. In some areas they are subjected to much persecution including shooting, hunting, being snared and dug out with terriers and caught with lurchers (fast, long-legged dogs). Self-locking snares and gin traps, both of which were once used to catch foxes, have been outlawed. Free running snares are legal, but they must be inspected at least once a day. These humanitarian provisions are the sole protection received by foxes.
Despite their lack of protection foxes are widespread and abundant. The success of the fox is due to its adaptability and it is in no need of active conservation measures. There remain about 190 fox hunts in England and Wales, but these probably kill a small proportion of foxes compared to those captured in snares and killed by other means. In the early 1980s many foxes were killed each year for their fur, most of which was exported to West Germany. However, with the decline in fur prices, this trade has decreased substantially.

8.  TENTH BIRTHDAY PARTY - Members invited
Wildwood celebrating it's tenth birthday this year, and as a way to mark this important milestone we have decided to have a party.
To celebrate a decade of conservation and entertaining hundreds of thousands of visitors over the years Wildwood has invited those people who help set up the park, local media and those who now support the park as members.
Cakes will be specially prepared by the keepers and presented to various animals by our VIP's.
The event will start at 10:30pm on Friday June 12th.

9. SOUTH SWALE HAVE NEW FOAL- First youngster of the year for South Swale herd
South swale herd's first foal of the year.
Our South Swale herd has produced its first baby foal of 2009 this week.
This bold project to enhance the wildlife of the South Swale Nature reserve was developed in a partnership between Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust. Thanks to the horses, the sites internationally important biodiversity is being enhanced and protected.
The baby foal was born on Sunday 3rd May 2009 to our conservation herd of wild horses which were moved to South Swale in September 2007 from Canterbury, where by the action of the wild horses natural grazing the site is being conserved as a haven for rare plants, animals and birds.
The wild horses are part of a bold plan to re-introduce the wild horse to Britain, the horse imported are the closest living relatives of the extinct Tarpan, the wild forest horse which roamed Britain in Neolithic times.
"The birth of this foal is great news" commented Peter Smith Chief Executive of Wildwood Trust "and is part of the plan for developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain and in this case South Swale team with wildlife again."
(Photo Credit - Amy Kendall)

Martyn Nicholls
Press Officer
Wildwood Trust
Tel: 01227 712111
Wildwood Trust
Herne Common
Herne Bay
Registered Charity No 1093702
Wildwood Trust is Kent's unique 'Woodland Discovery Park', a visitor attraction with a difference.
Wildwood is not only the best place to bring the family for a day out, but it is also a bold and innovative new charity, backed by the UK's leading wildlife conservationists. As a new charity Wildwood needs everyone's support in its mission to save our native and once native wildlife from extinction.
Wildwood Trust's vision is to bring back our true 'wildwood', a unique new way of restoring Britain's land to its natural state. This involves releasing large wild herbivores and developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain team with wildlife again.
The Wildwood 'Woodland Discovery Park' is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here.
Set in a sublime 38 acres of Ancient Woodland, Wildwood offers visitors a truly unique experience. Come Nose to Nose with our secretive badgers, experience what it is like to be hunted by a real live pack of wolves, watch a charging wild boar or track down a beaver in his lodge.
Wildwood Trust runs a highly successful programme of Conservation Projects
- we are the UK's leading experts in rescuing and re-establishing colonies of Britain's most threatened mammal, the water vole. Wildwood Trust has pioneered the use of ancient wild horses to restore nature reserve. Wildwood Trust has been at the forefront of efforts to re-establish the European Beaver back in Britain where they belong. European Beaver have been proven to help manage water ways to bring back a huge range of plants, insects and animals.

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