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Wingham Wildlife Park

Wingham Wildlife Park is a small zoo located between Canterbury and Sandwich.  Until the arrival of the tiger cubs Troy and Blade, it was unfortunately best known as the zoo that lost a Meerkat, which was subsequently found dead in a dog waste bin.

The zoo faced a lot of criticism over how the Meerkat came to be taken and claimed that steps had been taken to prevent a re-occurence.  Whilst some things have changed, I personally don’t feel that they have done enough, especially since there is at least one enclosure which remains insecure.

Meerkat in profile

In April 2011, Wingham Wildlife Park became home to a pair of 3 week old tiger cubs.  The cubs have been named Troy and Blade and were abandoned by their mother who gave birth to them in a Berlin zoo.  When we went to visit them, these adorable little cubs were just shy of 12 weeks old.

Tiger cubs play fighting in the grass

Troy and Blade are hybrid Bengal tiger cubs. There is only one pure breed Bengal tiger in Europe and she resides at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Smarden. For those of you who are regulars to my blog, you will know her already – her name is Padmini.

Bengal Tiger Cub on grass at Wingham Wildlife Park

After the keeper had shown off Troy and Blade to the general public, we were allowed to take photographs of the adorable tiger cub brothers.  Troy can be identified by the fact that he has the darker coat of the two.

12 week old Bengal Tiger Cub taken at Wingham Wildlife Park

The biggest challenge we faced whilst taking photographs of the cubs was the keeper. I’m sure he meant well by interacting with the cubs but none of us actually wanted him in any of our photographs.  I found many a photo ruined by his legs or him suddenly standing in front of us in order to encourage the cubs to approach us.

Tiger cub practicing stalking at Wingham Wildlife Park

The Lemur enclosure is one of those affected by the new security measures that have been put in place since the theft of the Meerkat.  Whilst it is still a walk through enclosure, admittance is now only when a member of staff is in attendance within. Considering how many baby lemurs there are, I can’t say that I am surprised.

Ring-Tailed Lemur twins

I had no idea how sweet and gentle these lovely creatures were until we actually interacted with them.  They were naturally inquisitive and seemed to enjoy jumping onto our shoulders to examine our cameras and allowing us to give them a gentle stroke.  Their fur, by the way, is extremely soft.

Piggy Back Ride

One thing I will say for Wingham Wildlife Park is that they have an incredibly successful breeding program.  There were a lot of babies at the park, including Prairie Dog babies. Their enclosure is at the farthest end of the park and probably also the quietest area. I was therefore surprised and dismayed at how insecure the enclosure was.  Yes, there was a small electric fence to ensure that the Prairie Dogs did not escape but the wall is so low that there is nothing to stop someone from stepping over and taking one.  Perhaps the staff think that the Prairie Dog’s sharp claws are a strong enough deterrent for any would be thief….

Pop-up Prairie Dog at Wingham Wildlife Park

I’ve never really been a fan of the Black and White Ruffed Lemurs.  I’ve always thought their black faces made them look aggressive but today, I found out that I was completely wrong about them.

Black and White Ruffed Lemur

Not only are they extremely gentle creatures, but they also have a lovely but curious temperament.  One of the adults was so curious about my jeans that he actually bumped his nose against my knee.

Wingham Wildlife Park is a lovely little zoo but it has a long way to go by way of security measures and making it a centre of excellence.  I actually witnessed a girl remove the Black Headed Caique from its perch, despite signs requesting that the bird not be touched.  When I reported the incident to nearby staff, they retrieved the bird but seemed reluctant to remonstrate the girl for blatantly disregarding their notice.

In addition, given the amount of chicken and fowl that are simply allowed to roam freely around the park, I was surprised at the amount of cigarette butts lying on the ground for them to pick up.  I also have to admit to not being entirely comfortable about eating my food outside whilst surrounded by the same fowl. What happened to keeping animals and birds out of eating areas?

Royal Bengal Tiger Cub profile

The tiger cubs are clearly the big money spinner for the park.  Since their arrival, visitor numbers have just gone up and up. I will certainly revisit the park to see how Troy and Blade are progressing. Here’s to hoping that the security measures at the park are simply a work in progress and will improve.

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