England has lots of small wildlife parks scattered about and they are all very different. I hesitate to call them zoos as they are much smaller in size. I also have found that different wildlife centers tend to specialize in exhibiting a specific type of animal along with a few other species mix in. For example the park near my husband's work tends to focus mostly on primates but does have a few other things to see like wallaby's, various birds and camels. There is a raptor center near us that focuses mainly on birds, mostly owls and birds of prey. Most if not all have a outdoor/indoor play ground for children so you can let the children have a play while parents rest and have a cuppa (British term for a cup of tea)!
Today we met up with the British homeschooling group and went to Shepreth Wildlife Park which the kids and I had never been to before. We met with the park warden and had a special class showing the kids a few of the animals that they had at the park.
First the kids got to see an albino skunk and learn all about skunks. I was a bit shocked to learned that it is illegal for zoos in the UK to perform a procedure to remove the stink gland. So this skunk was able to spray all of us should it get upset. However it was hand raised and extremely friendly but that didn't stop a few of the kids and adults to stand up in a hurry and head for the door when it raised its tail:)
Next up was the Leopard Gecko. My kids just got a gecko as a pet about a month ago so they were very eager to share all they knew with the group. I am sure it was annoying to everyone else in the room, and I did try to stop them but only partially exceeded:)
Next we learned all about Millipedes and how they are different from centipedes. Even now looking at the picture I feel the need to scratch, I just don't like these things---too many legs.
A Corn Snake. there are only 3 snakes in England and one was poisonous. The Adder!! I didn't know there were any venomous snake here.
A very big stick bug!
Just as we were wrapping up a park employee came in with a animal that had been brought to the center that morning for care.
This is a baby gray squirrel had fallen out of its nest. It was so tiny its eyes were closed and had no hair that I could see on its body. The warden had it covered with cotton and sitting on a hot water bottle. While showing the kids the warden explained that the ethical situation the park had now been put in and wanted the kids to help make the decision. In England it is illegal to raise a squirrel with the idea of releasing it back into the wild. If the zoo took on the responsibility of caring for this animal then it would have to either keep the squirrel in the park or in another rescue center where it would remained caged for life. The other possibility that they brought up to the children was to humanely allow the squirrel to die. There was quite a lively discussion from the children and the adults but ultimately the children voted that the warden should do everything in its power to aid the squirrel. I just love these ethical questions and the discussions they bring with them.
Some other animals we saw:
These were my favorite the Asian Otters. They were so cute, inquisitive and just fun to watch:)
The park had acquired in 1998 2 hybrid tigers. This was the only time I felt that the animals enclosures were to small. Although the wardens do enrichment activities with all their animals I felt these animal needed more space to roam.
Overall I thought the park was clean and the animal enclosures clean and adequate for the animals (except the tigers) . All the animals appeared to be in good physical health, however we did see a few of them pacing around their cages which I always take as a sign of stress for the animal. Talking to several of the park warden they were knowledgeable and quite friendly. The kids and I will be back to explore further.
It is a new month over at NOBH. Come join Tracy, Lynda and I and link up your posts. We would love to see you there:)!