The WHF (Wildlife Heritage Foundation) was where David had his first proper nature photography lesson back in 2009, so it was only fitting that my first proper lesson was also here. My photo day was bought for me by David as a wedding anniversary present.
Since that day, we have been back to photograph the big cats and the little cats at WHF Smarden many times and in the process, have gotten to know both the cats and the wonderful volunteers who look after the place very well. It would be so easy to fill my blog with the photos that I have taken at WHF but I prefer to share a few images of some of my favourite cats.
Meet Xizi, an amur leopard. In the time we have known her, she has had three litters of gorgeous cubs. Her son, Argun, may be seen in the gallery below.
Ranschan was my very first snow leopard and he remains my favourite. He wasn’t always obliging for the camera but when he was in the mood, he made a fantastic model.
Murphy the cheetah, affectionately known as “Smurf” is a superstar when it comes to posing for the camera. He has the most amazing collection of facial expressions and it is all too easy to forget that he is not a domestic cat.
Ben the Clouded Leopard was a former resident of Santago until the rare leopards project was closed down following the death of owner and founder Peter James. The loss of Peter is a huge blow to cat conservation – many of the big cats that can be found at WHF, Paradise Wildlife Park and other sanctuaries around the world were rescued by Peter. David and I were one of the last people to visit Santago before it closed in 2009.
Nias the Sumatran Tiger has fathered two litters of cubs in the time that we have known him. Sumatrans are instantly recognisable by their slightly mad looking faces. You can read more about his second litter of cubs, Toba and Kubu here Kittens and cubs at WHF.
Petra is an ex-TV star. She was retired from the world of animal actors after she got a bit too playful on set. Considering photographers are actually allowed into the enclosure with her now, I think it would be fair to say that she has calmed down.
WHF Smarden is home to two puma sisters, Valentina and Viktoria. The former (pictured above) gives wonderful snarls whilst Viktoria likes to entertain her audience by jumping across water.
Neptune the fishing cat came to WHF Smarden with his brother Aquarius and sister Angel as part of the deal that saw Pamir the Pallas Cat move from WHF to the Rare Species Conservation Centre. The timing of their move was quite fortuitous as their father had started to become intolerant of their presence and it was only a matter of time before he hurt one of the kittens.
Below is a gallery of more of my favourite images from WHF Smarden. I hope you enjoy looking at them and would love to hear your thoughts on my photos. As ever, click on a thumbnail to see a larger image.