Male Tiger of Bandhavgarh

Tigers of Bandhavgarh

After a rocky start to our trip thanks to the ineptitude of British Airways, we eventually arrived in Bandhavgarh, 24 hours later than scheduled.  Rather than take the overnight sleeper train from Delhi, this year, we opted to fly from Delhi to Jabalpur.  The travelling was still hardcore, but by opting to take an internal flight, we saved ourselves a second day of travel.

Macaque hugging tree

We arrived at our destination an hour before the afternoon game drives commenced.  After a quick freshen up, we went to meet our naturalist.  Much to our delight, we recognised Sanju from our previous trip.  Upon arriving at Tala Gate, we were also very happy to see that our friend Blind Dog, Rosie was still going strong.  It felt like we had never left.

Indian Deer

Our assigned route was B and D – one that we were very familiar with.  As we drove along the route, I was overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia tinged with much sadness.  There was the Meadow where we had witnessed Chorbera teaching her cubs how to hunt and the stream where she used to lay in whilst watching her cubs at play.  The crossroad where we had sat for over half an hour waiting for the Mirchani cubs to cross the road.  The plateau where we first met B2.

Monitor Lizard

We wondered what would be in store for us as we didn’t know the new tigers but were hopeful that we would catch a glimpse of the new lord of bandhavgarh. Sightings were more sporadic because the temperatures were much cooler in November which meant the tigers did not have to come to water.

One of the new tigers was Jhurjhura male, the son of Jhurjhura tigress who had tragically died of injuries sustained when hit by a car the day before we arrived in the park last year. Ironically, Jhurjhura male hated cars and had been known to charge them when he spotted to them so I was more than a little nervous when we came upon him by chance.

Jhurjhura Male Tiger in Bandhavgarh

I need not have worried as our guide was well aware of Jhurjhura’s temperament and gave this most beautiful tiger the space he needed to go about his business. Jhurjhura is rarely seen so the fact that we were lucky enough to have encountered him on our first day, I took as a good omen for our trip.

Our second day gave us the sighting we had hoped for. Bhamera, son of B2 and the new lord of Bandhavgarh. His beautiful face was ruined during his deadly combat with his father but forever made him instantly recognisable.

Bhamera son of B2

As ever, Sanju knew exactly the path that Bhamera would take so when he drove us away from the tiger, we trusted that he knew what he was doing. Sure enough, within minutes we could see the new dominant male heading in our direction.

It wasn’t until we left Bhamera as the sun went down and I looked at the back of my camera that I realised where we had left him. The image staring back at me left a lump in my throat – it was the very spot where we had first seen his father, B2. It seemed fitting that we should leave him there, resting where his father used to pose so graciously for his adoring audience.

Bhamera resting in Bandhavgarh park

I had hoped to meet fierce Kancutti, the new queen of the Meadow. I hadn’t realised that she had lost an eye to Chorbehra when they fought and I was intrigued by this sister of Jhurjhura male. Sadly, we never got the chance as she was nursing very small cubs and sightings of her were therefore rare. We did however, meet Bhamera’s new queen, Benbai.

Benbai tigress of Bandhavgarh

Benbai is a magnificent mother and a fierce protector of her cubs. Indeed, when one of the mahouts went into the brush where we knew she and Bhamera were resting with their cubs, it was Benbai who roared and charged the elephant whilst Bhamera led the cubs higher up the mountains.

Chorbehra’s cubs are thriving on the outskirts of the park. The rangers are keen to protect them so have created a special area where they can roam and hone their skills. There have been many sightings of them, mainly at dusk. We had hoped to see them but we were not lucky. Ironically, the cubs survival is largely due to their father, Bhamera, now taking a hand in their upbringing. It seems that B2’s bloodline runs strong.

We left the new tigers of bandhavgarh feeling that changes were coming to the park but probably for the better. Bhamera is busy securing his borders and spreading his seed everywhere. This will ultimately prove to be his undoing but such is the circle of life in Bandhavgarh. I look forward to coming back to India to see how the tale unfolds.

Three cheetah cubs

Cheetah Cubs at Colchester Zoo

The cheetah cubs, one male and two females, were born at the beginning of July and have been named Malawi, Savannah and Tatu respectively.  By the time we finally made it down to Colchester Zoo to see them, they were 4 months old.

Cheetah Cub posing

When we arrived at the enclosure, the cubs were sleeping under the watchful eye of their mother.  Luckily for us, they were coming to the end of their afternoon snooze so we didn’t have to wait long for them to wake up.Mother and cubs posed briefly on the rocks for us but the cubs got bored very quickly.  They wanted to play!

Cheetah family posing on a rock

After a few unsuccessful attempts at breeding Uria by sending her to other zoos, it seems the secret to success was to bring a male cheetah to her at Colchester Zoo.  Jack was introduced to Uria earlier this year and the pair hit it off immediately.  Whilst many hail this successful pairing as being down to “computer dating”, what many people may not know is that unlike most of the cat family, Cheetahs actually have to fancy each other in order to mate.

Many congratulations to Uria and Jack.

Cheetah cub at Hamerton Zoo

Cheetah Cubs at Hamerton Zoo

Six weeks after we first met them, David and I plus a good friend were privileged enough to be allowed special access to photograph 3 adorable cheetah cubs at Hamerton Zoo.  Born on 30th June, the three boys were named Kito, Makali and Tyson.

The cubs had grown significantly since we last saw them but at 15 weeks old, they were still small and extremely cute.

Cheetah Cub close-up

Cheetah Cub lying in grass

Cheetah cub looking up

The cubs were very sociable as a result of being hand-reared.  We spent a wonderful morning watching and photographing them whilst they played, chased each other and posed beautifully for us.

Cheetah cub siblings

Cheetah cub resting in the grass

Coy cheetah cub

When the cubs started to tire, Tracy, our keeper for the morning suggested that we leave them to have their lunch whilst we go photograph the adult cheetahs.

I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record now but there really is no better place to photograph cheetahs than at Hamerton Zoo.

Adult male cheetah

Cheetah looking down

Cheetah looking back

Cheetah sitting with crossed paws

Thanks to Tracy for organising the photography morning for us and to Rosa for being such a great mummy to the cubs and furnishing me with their date of birth and names.

Backlit fox cub

British Wildlife Centre in Autumn

I didn’t think I would be going back to the British Wildlife Centre this year after my last visit, but when they announced the arrival of a new Scottish Wildcat male for Kendra, well… how could I resist?

It was also a pleasant surprise to see Flo and Frodo’s cubs.  I suspect though that it won’t be long before the cubs go off to their new home.

Attentive british wildlife fox cub

We have always been extremely lucky with the Scottish Wildcats at the British Wildlife Centre.  Sadly, our luck ran out today.  With the exception of Dougal and Una, the others did not make an appearance at all.

Scottish wildcat yawning

Whilst I was disappointed, I wasn’t surprised.  As mentioned in earlier posts, both Kendra and Iona have had a hard time this year – the sisters had both lost their respective mates and their litters.  In Kendra’s case, she had actually given birth to a second litter.  Tragically, all the kittens died after just a few weeks.

Turbo, the baby Hedgehog is almost the same size as his father now.

Hedgehog

I don’t think I will ever get over my bird phobia, but the more time I spend with owls, the more I am growing to like them.

Tawny Owl looking up

Stirling, one of the resident British Otters.  We’ve never had the opportunity to photograph Stirling before so this was a real treat.  He is such a lovely otter and so obliging when it comes to photo calls.

Happy otter

Velvet’s kittens were out and about so we took the opportunity to get some shots of them.

Pop up polecat

We did one final session with the fox cubs at the end of the day.  Since this was probably the last time we would see them here, we made the most of the opportunity.

Red Fox Cub

Portrait of a British Otter

Tamar Otter Sanctuary

The Tamar Otter Sanctuary is probably the best kept secret in the world of Otter photography.  We only found out about the sanctuary through following wildlife photographer Tom Hadley on Twitter.  After seeing his wonderful photos, we decided we needed to visit this place for ourselves.

Situated a few miles outside of Launceston, this little gem of a wildlife centre turned out to be a real find.  Whilst it is primarily an Otter conservation and rehabilitation centre, it is also home to free roaming Fallow Deer, Muntjac Deer and Wallabies, as well as six species of Owl and a pair of Scottish Wildcats.

There are 2 species of Otter to be found here – the British and Asian Short Clawed Otters.

Tamar Otter swimming

The centre specialises in rehabilitating and releasing orphaned British Otters and have to date, done a fantastic job.  Currently, there are 10 British Otters and 9 Asian Short Claw Otters in residence.

The Asian Short Claw Otters are easily identifiable since they smell very strongly of fish!

Asian short clawed otter eating fish

The photographic opportunities afforded, especially during feeding time are simply phenomenal.

British otter holding a half eaten fish in his claws

Female british otter eating fish

It was a fantastic day out and the food in the coffee shop has to be commended.  Of course, you can always take your own sandwiches and sit at one of the picnic tables outside to eat, but be aware that you WILL attract all the Ducks, Geese, Peacocks, Silver Pheasants and Guinea Fowl!

Tamar Otter swimming in river

The Centre is funded by the income generated from visitors and all conservation and rehabilitation activities are funded from this income.  They receive no external funding so if you love Otters and fancy a day out with them, I really would recommend a visit to the Tamar Otter Sanctuary.  It really is worth a visit.

Polar Bear close-up

Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig

The Highland Wildlife Park is a 260 acre safari park and zoo located near Kingussie, Highland, Scotland.  The park opened in 1972 and is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which also runs Edinburgh Zoo.

I have to admit to not being sure about the park when we first arrived, mainly because we hadn’t expected the first part of the visit to be a driving safari in our own car.  However, by the end of the day, we were completely in love with the park.

The Highland Wildlife Park is home to a rather large troupe of Japanese Macaque, also known as the Snow Monkey.

Japanese Macaque Huddle

In Japan, they are the subject of many Buddhist myths but more interestingly, they are the monkeys behind the famous saying “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

Baby Macaque at Highland Wildlife Park

The thing I love most about monkeys is how demonstrably protective they are of their young.  I never tire of taking pictures of the young cuddled into their mothers or being consoled by another member of the family.

Mother and baby macaque at Highland Wildlife Park

We left the Snow Monkeys whilst they ate to go see the Amur Tigers.  However, mother and daughters were fast asleep so we carried on around the park.

Meet Walker, the two year old Polar Bear. I’m not a huge bear fan but Walker completely and utterly stole my heart.

Polar Bear reflection

The timing of our visit to Highland Wildlife Park was a little off.   Just the week before, they lost their male Red Panda, Babu.  We also missed out on seeing the Pallas Cat Kittens who had been taken off show for their vaccinations.  Jodie, Babu’s mate, was understandably very wary when we saw her.

Thoughtful red panda

The Pallas Cat enclosure at Highlands Wildlife Park is really lovely and so suited for them.  The sheer natural rock face provide Allula and Beebop with all the climbing exercise they need and the long grass at the base provides camouflage should they wish to remain invisible.

Pallas Cat standing on rocky outcrop

Allula and Beebop came to the park from the Rare Species Conservation Centre, a place that regular visitors to my site will know is very special to me.  For those of you who are thinking that the Pallas Cats look rather “bouffant”, this is because they are starting to grow their winter coats. By the time their winter coats are fully grown, these adorable cats are going to look like great big puff balls!

Pallas Cat on the rocks

The Amur Tiger enclosure is the largest of its type in the UK.  Filled with trees and natural watering holes, it’s small wonder that Sacha and her daughters Dominika and Natalia are thriving.

Amur tiger drinking water

Sacha was born in 1996 and came to the park from Moscow Zoo.  She gave birth to 3 cubs in in 2009 – Natalia and Dominika remain with her but son Vladimir now resides at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

Tiger in the woods at Highland Wildlife Park

Despite the fact that we were at the park for two days, we somehow still didn’t manage to photograph all the resident wildlife. I guess we’ll just have to book a return visit soon.

Siberian Lynx from Le Parc des Félins

Le Parc des Felins

Le Parc des Felins is home to over 25 species and sub species of the 36 feline species in the world.  At over 60 hectares, the park which is located in the magnificent woodland estate of la Fortelle, is simply enormous.

European wildcat photographed at Le Parc des Felins

The park comprises of 5 zones, with the 140 cats that live in very large natural enclosures divided up into the 4 continents from which they originate.  The fifth zone/continent is dedicated to the lemurs of Madagascar (well their latin name does contain the word “cat!”).

Portrait of a Lynx

Whilst I had the opportunity to photograph every species in the park (and I did), I am only posting up my favourite images so not all species will be represented with an image.

Asian Golden Cat

Le Parc des Felins is home to both species of the Asian Golden Cat – grey green and red gold. These cats are normally very shy and this is the only time I have managed to successfully capture an image of them.

White tiger from Le Parc des Félins

One of the huge attractions of the park is their large collection of White Tigers. These stunning creatures do not exist in the wild. Nor are they a species in their own right. The white coat is a result of in-breeding and their population has been carefully maintained for the last 60 years by man.

Malayan Tiger close-up

The Malayan tigers live in the largest tiger enclosure in the world at 3.5 hectares. They have the most stunning face – not as mad as that of the Sumatran but not as soft as those of the Bengal or Amur tiger.

Lounging snow leopard cub

Dinah, the year old snow leopard cub was a huge draw for the photographers and boy did she know it! She still acted and played like a cub, pouncing on her mother, playing with branches and rolling down the mound, providing everyone with some great photographic opportunities.

Sumatran Tiger in Le Parc des Félins

The Sumatran tiger is distinguishable from all other species of tiger by the fact that they have webbed feet and their beautiful faces have a slightly mad look.

Pallas cat from Le Parc des Félins

One of the main reasons for visiting Parc des Felins was because another of the WHF Pallas Cat kittens had moved here – Pamir’s older sister, Ulan Bator. It’s been over a year since I last saw Ulan Bator and any ideas of easily identifying her were quickly dashed when I realised that there were two female Pallas Cats in the enclosure!

Thinking Amur Tigress

The park has 2 enormous Amur Tiger enclosures. One is home to a family of 4 and the other holds a second breeding pair. Natalya is the matriarch in the family group and was sadly, wild caught in Russia.

Lioness yawning

The Africa zone is home to two different species of lion, African and Angolan. I watched with much interest as one of the Angolan lionesses started a roaring match with the African lionesses before settling down to sleep once she had wound them up good and proper.

Gordon's Wildcat kitten from Le Parc des Félins

This adorable kitten is a Gordon’s Wildcat and one of a litter of two kittens. The timing of our visit turned out to be impeccable as the park was full of cubs and kittens.

Persian Leopard as photographed at Le Parc des Félins

The Persian Leopard enclosure is huge with tall trees thus allowing the leopards to hide out in the tree branches, just as they would in the wild.

Black Leopard photographed at Le Parc Des Félins

Conscious that we still had one last zone to visit, we didn’t spend as much time in the African zone as I would have liked, but the jaguars in the American zone more than made up for this.

Jaguar cub

The breeding pair had had a litter of two the previous year and whilst they were technically no longer cubs, they were still cute and behaved more like cubs than sub adults.

Mountain Lion in profile

The Puma enclosure is just lovely. It’s spacious with plenty of trees for the five Pumas to climb and chase each other in and made for some wonderful backdrops in which to photograph.

Geoffrey's Cat looking over her shoulder

The female Geoffroy’s cat was very relaxed, unlike her mate who paced endlessly. I got tired just watching him.

The original plan had been to leave le parc des felins at around 5pm in order to ensure that we made it back to Calais on time to catch our train. Based on how long we spent in the park yesterday, we decided to stay in the park til closing time and then rush back. If we missed the train that we were booked on to board, then we would simply get a later one. As luck would have it, we actually made it back in time to board our train!

Portrait of a sand cat

Rare Species Conservation Centre

The Rare Species Conservation Centre is a fantastic little sanctuary located just outside of Sandwich, Kent.  Formed in 2006, the centre is dedicated to preserving the world’s lesser known rare and endangered species of animals which are often overlooked by the bigger and more mainstream zoos.

The volunteers were extremely friendly and well informed about the animals in their care.  It was also obvious that everyone there was passionate about conservation.

Todd’s announcement of the closure of rare species conservation centre was met with much dismay by all its supporters.  Not surprising considering what an amazing place it is.  I guess Todd must have been overwhelmed by all the messages of support because much to our delight, he promised to open RSCC one last time so that people could come back to say goodbye.

I only learned of the place back in April and I have loved every visit I made there.

It’s not the biggest of zoos but it was unique in that there is no other zoo in the country where one had such easy access to newborn animals.  Had it not been for Todd and his staff, I would not have photographs of Fishing Cat kittens or a Rusty Spotted Kitten growing up.  It was also home to Pamir, a Pallas cat who I’ve watched since she was a kitten at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

As a photographer, the rare species conservation centre was a dream location.  The keepers always made a point of letting me know which animals they were feeding to allow me to gain the best photo opportunities and on occasion, they even fed some of the cats early in order to help me get the pictures I wanted.  Nor will I ever forget the countless hours I spent on my knees gaining the trust of the young kittens.

We arrived around 11am and from the notice on the door, saw that the collection was much reduced.  Of the animals that I loved, the only ones that still remained were the juvenile Fishing Cats, the Rusty Spotted Cats, the Black Footed Cat, the Desert Sand Cats and the Jaguarundi.

Below is a selection of some of my favourite images from the summer. Click on an image to see a larger version.

I am going to miss the antics of Ping, the smooth coated otter and the crazy boky bokys, but most of all, I will miss the fishing cats kittens and the rusty spotted baby. I had had the privilege of watching from when they were 5 days old to 5 months old and the thought of not being able to watch them grow to adulthood filled me with sadness.

I was also going to miss Short Face and Long Face – as the first Fishing Cats I had ever photographed, they held a very special place in my heart. It has been an absolute pleasure watching them grow from juveniles into beautiful and powerful adults. Sure, I could visit them in their new homes but they would not be as accessible as they had been.

Farewell rare species conservation centre, I will miss you and its residents.

Red Stag

British Wildlife At Wildwood Trust

The Wildwood Trust is home to an extensive collection of British wildlife.  Animals that have inhabited Britain for the last 10,000 years and animals that have been hunted to extinction in the UK.

I had heard many good things about this ancient forest, which is located between the historic city of Canterbury and the pretty coastal town of Herne Bay, so was extremely excited to finally get the chance to see it for myself.

Fallow Deer were introduced to this country by the Normans in the 10th Century, and now live wild in woodland in the UK. The Fallow Deer can be identified by its tan/brown fur and white spots on the flank. The males have branched antlers, which are grown new each year ready for the autumn mating season. The antlers have a broad flat area like the palm of a hand and the number of branches on the antler increases with age.

Fallow Deer

Wild Boar are members of the pig family, and used to roam wild in the UK until they were hunted to extinction in the 1300s. They are the size of a large dog but far heavier, with dark grey skin and reddish brown bristles. Fortunately, Wild Boar exist in the UK, in the wild again, albeit in isolated areas, having escaped from Wild Boar farms. However these animals are extremely shy so the chances of seeing one in the wild is remote.

Wild Boar at the Wildwood Trust

The Red Deer is our largest land mammal, standing over a metre to the shoulder. Its summer coat is reddish brown to brown and there are no spots present in adult coat.

Red Stag in the woods

Standing at up to 2m tall and almost 3m long, the European Bison is the largest terrestrial animal in Europe and once roamed from southern Britain as far as Russia.  It became extinct in the wild in 1927 when the last wild Bison was shot and killed.

Bison photographed at the Wildwood Trust

The Eurasian Lynx became extinct in Britain due to hunting for their fur and habitat loss. They have been absent from this country for at least 1500 years.  Did you know that the Lynx is the third largest predator in Europe, after the Brown Bear and Wolf? The long tufts on their ears help this stealthy and solitary cat to hear better.

Lynx sisters

Wildwood is home to a pair of Lynx sisters who love nothing better than to lounge in the sun.  They are generally very chilled but turn your backs to them at your peril!

The Otter is a member of the weasel family (Mustelid) and lives in lakes, streams and rivers around the UK. It is endangered, but its populations are recovering after almost reaching extinction from absorbing the poisonous weed killer DDT from the animals it ate. Only last week, it was confirmed that there were now Otters in every county.  How wonderful is that?

Otter covered in algae

The Badger is another member of the Mustelid family.  This little one is an orphan, just like Honey at the British Wildlife Centre.

Inquisitive badger cub

Wolves and humans have a long adversarial history. Though they almost never attack humans, Wolves are considered one of the animal world’s most fearsome natural villains. It is this unfair reputation which has caused them to be hunted to extinction in England by the 15th Century.

The Wolves of Wildwood are split into two groups.  The wild pack consists of four related Wolves and two hand-reared Wolves who are sisters.  The hand-reared Wolves were born to the Wolf Pack but rescued when their den became flooded. They had to spend so long with people whilst their den was fixed, they could not be returned to the pack.

Wolf in the forest

The European Beaver is a native British species but was hunted to extinction in the UK centuries ago for their fur. Beavers are entirely vegetarian and use their sharp teeth to chop down trees and strip away bark and leaves. Some of the trunks of these trees they use to build a dam across a stream, which creates an artificial lake.

Beaver photographed at the Wildwood Trust

There were so many more animals (and birds) at Wildwood than I had the time to photograph.  It truly is a lovely place to visit and the facilities are superb.  We will be back!