With extinction round the corner for many wild animals, pockets of safety have sprung up to try and save some species from disappearing completely.
I’m no lover of zoos and I’d much rather the exploitation was removed rather than the animals it effects. However, nearby to where I live Yorkshire Wildlife Park opened a few years ago. Born out of a rescue mission to save lions from a Romanian hell hole (zoo!) it’s now progressed in to a major centre for endangered animals. I grabbed my camera and paid a visit.
The park is huge, wide landscaped plains where the animals roam surrounded by fences that visitors can walk round. The fencing is a pain if you want to try taking photos but I suppose that’s the price you pay for not ending up as lunch!
The wildest ‘inhabitants’ were the 1000’s of small kids out for the day on school trips. They screeched and stomped around the place – the other side of the fence with the furry wild things was by now looking pretty good! Teachers and parents were doing their best to shout louder than the small humans to ‘educate’ them in the ways of lions, tigers and assorted beast. I think there was some confusion that this was a re-run of Madagascar and said beasts would at some point break in to a song and dance routine. I blame Pixar, somebody needs to point out that lions, well fed lions, just want to lay in the grass and go to sleep – as far away from the noise as possible. Cries of “get him to come over here” and “why isn’t it doing anything” could be heard across the savannah ..
Outside the giraffe house was a big sign asking for “QUIET” – obviously it wasn’t big enough, or perhaps low enough to the ground, for the small humans to read – had it declared “FREE ICE CREAM” it may have had more impact. The giraffes made a decision to go in to hiding – how do you hide a giraffe?! They could be seen muttering to each other to stick it out until the coast was clear. I played them at their own game and once the kids got bored and wandered off out came 4 giraffes feeling pretty smug with themselves. I jumped out with my camera and got one shot in before they turned their backs on me and disappeared, never to be seen again. Perhaps they had gone for the free ice cream …
I looked for the quickest route out of there – there wasn’t one. So I struggled on past tigers who were doing a great job of hiding in the long grass and a leopard so high up in a tree I could just see his tail dangling in the breeze. It’s a mystery, these animals can hide behind 2 blades of grass in a compound but in 1000 acres of African bush are being picked off in their hundreds! I was almost out, just had to negotiate the polar bears and then I could escape back to my car. The polar bears were not shy at all, one appeared to be doing yoga by the side of the pool while his friend destroyed a lovely wooden raft the keeper had built for him. These boys were trouble with a capital T.
The photos were nothing to get excited about unfortunately but it was good to see a worthwhile project to keep these animals out of harms way. I think I’m going to suggest an adults only night, wander round in a civilised manner with a glass of wine, a touch of soft rock playing in the background – perhaps the giraffes might come join us ..