Welcome to 2017 and may we wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year! With the start of another year, we wanted to take this opportunity to review our favourite happenings at Wildwood Kent and Wildwood Devon in 2016, and also look forward to what is shaping up to be a fantastic 2017. We'll be focussing on the animals of course, but also letting you know some of our staff's personal highlights as well as a taster of what's happening as the year goes on.
Thank you all for your continued support!
Lynx at Wildwood Escot
Coming from Highland Wildlife Park, our lynx arrived at Wildwood Escot in March 2016. This was an incredibly exciting moment for us, as they are a wonderful addition to the collection and are a great representation of what Wildwood would like to achieve. These animals were once key predators that would roam the English countryside, and we were very proud to be able to have them on site.
Two beautiful hedgehogs rescued by our staff in September were released back into the wild by the keepers at Wildwood Escot. After their rehabilitation and once at optimum health, it was fantastic to be able to release them into the wild.
We were very excited to see the long awaited return of the arctic foxes to Wildwood this year. Initially they served an isolation period and then moved to a newly refurbished enclosure which is designed to care for the needs of an arctic species in a southern woodland. It includes a refridgeration unit so that our animals don't get too hot! As you can see from the picture and if visiting, they're loving their new enclosure.
Our two male brown bears are fully settled after being at Wildwood for the last two years. At the beginning of the year they sorted out who was in charge after a small wrestle, and the younger and smaller bear became the dominant male. This lasted less than four months as in late June an unseen scuffle took place when the larger and older bear took over. They still get on very well, although they can be a handful at mealtimes!
Opening of our bear bridge
Our exciting bear bridge opened up in the summer, allowing a bird's eye view of the bear shenanigans and play. Not only could you get unparalled access to the bears, but going across the swaying and bouncy bridge is pretty fun!
If you're a regular visitor to our Kent park, you may have spotted two new wolves in the enclosure located behind Mischka - our 16 year-old hand reared wolf. The male from Sweden and female from Switzerland are young and very energetic. After serving an isolation period, they are now acclimatising to their new surroundings, keepers and routines and should shortly be integrated into the large wolf enclosure with our existing wolves - Amber and Akela.
Wild boar movements
Our expert ranger team refurbished the old boar pens and added some new shelters and a race for easier movement in future. The previous boar pen is now being left to regenerate until the boars need to be moved again. Pru has been doing some housework on the shelters and will often pad out her home with non-edible bits. Sydney of course just eats!
This year has seen some movement amongst our birdlife. The corvids have moved to one of the aviaries at the badger building and the jay has moved to a refurbished aviary opposite. Our three female tawny owls have been put together in the refurbished aviary that the corvids were in, the tawny owls are getting on very well. Some turtle doves came in from another collection and are housed in the now refurbished old Jay aviary at the rat barn.The Ken West aviary had some little egrets moved on to other collections and has been adjusted to house some chough with a view to establishing a breeding program.
Births at Wildwood
The spring was full of new life with our wildcats having kittens and allowing us to have a leading role in research and conservation of this magnificent animal.
April saw the first time that Wildwood had ever recorded the birth of pine martens. Wildwood is at the forefront of pine marten research and the rare film of the whole birthing process is already enabling better research, conservation of habitat and possible re-introduction work.
The park continues to breed red squirrels and hazel dormice. We've been very successful this year with two broods of red squirrels and fourteen of the dormice being born.
We've also seen the birth of a wallaby in the Autumn and a female fawn for the red deer.
In June our fourteen young dormice, captive bred at Wildwood, were reintroduced into a woodland in Yorkshire in partnership with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. This is part of our work to establish dormice populations in counties where they had become extinct due to habitat loss, fragmentation or degradation.
The conservation team has had water voles coming in from different contacts which will be held and released later next spring.
Three of our Konik ponies have stayed at Stodmarsh Nature Reserve over winter for the first time since 2013, and it is hoped that this will continue in the future. We recently undertook the mammoth task of moving them into a new parcel of land on the reserve, which you can find out about through the button link below.
A personal highlight for me was being asked to become part of the red-billed chough conservation project. As part of this I worked at Paradise Park, Cornwall, for a week where I shadowed their keepers and learnt about chough husbandry and management. I then took on responsibility for the care of two female chough who joined our collection. Another highlight for me was presenting my research on red-billed chough social behaviour at the BIAZA research symposium held at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in June. Myself, Vicki, Sally and Angus represented Wildwood, along with Lawrence, a PhD student from DICE at the University of Kent. It was a great way to network and hear from other keepers and academics current ongoing research in both zoo's and in the in situ environment.
I was lucky enough to be involved with the Bear Experiences, and the highlight of the year for me was being so close to an animal so beautiful, friendly and awe-inspiring.
I thoroughly enjoyed my regular chats with Caramel the elk. It's difficult to understand exactly what she is talking about, but it's not too hard to get a rough idea. (see video in link below)
What better way to finish our review of the year with Christmas. We had a hand-built grotto at both our Kent and Devon parks which provided a warm and magical environment for all the children that visited. We were fully booked and have to give our volunteers, ranger team and shop staff a massive pat on the back for making the experience so amazing.
You lovely people also continue to contribute to the welfare of our animals by taking out more adoptions than ever. Thank you!
Upcoming in 2017
We have so many things happening this year. Our main activities and events at both parks will be occuring in the February and November half-term breaks,during the Easter holiday and for the six week Summer holiday period. We'll have plenty to do for the kiddies! This doesn't mean there is nothing happening for the rest of the year. We'll be having daily talks, pop-up events and of course the animals will always be out and doing their thing.
We have some exciting plans to increase our animal family which we will be letting you know about as they are confirmed on our website and social media pages. We'll also be continuing with our conservation objectives through captive breeding programs, combined research with leading institutions and our efforts to reintroduce species back into the U.K.
Once again in 2017, you'll be able to get involved with some exciting experiences at Wildwood. At our Kent park we'll be starting up our Bear Experiences in March and have just introduced our new Arctic Fox Experiences. We also have our informative Photo Days with our resident photographer and animal expert, Dave Butcher. We have regular Night Tours to see our animals in a different light, literally. And if that isn't enough, we have our Zoo Keeper and Junior Zoo Keeper days for those who really want to bond with the animals. Find out more by clicking the button below.
Our Devon park will be hosting events throughout the year, including a number of cinema extravaganzas and food festivals. Find out more at the website or on the Wildwood Devon FB page.
As always, we'll be updating you as the year goes on and can't wait to see you all. Feel free to get in touch to talk with us about anything Wildwood.