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!

Pallas cat looking into the distance

Pallas Cats and Tigers at Port Lympne

Today was our first day back to Port Lympne since they introduced their Passport scheme.  It’s been 9 months since our last visit and to be honest, I’m amazed that we haven’t been back sooner, especially since there was the opportunity to watch the Amur tiger cubs growing up!  Still, we’re here now and armed with Passports, we can come back as often as we like.

There have been quite a few changes at Port Lympne since we were last here and I’ve yet to decide whether it is an improvement or not.  Many of the animals have been moved to different enclosures, some for the better, others, in my personal opinion are for the worse.  I was also extremely surprised to see that Port Lympne had Red Pandas again so soon.

Upon arrival, we were given a map and told to make our way to Base Camp.  From there, we would take one of the safari trucks to do a tour of the African Experience.  The truck would stop at certain points and we were free to hop on and off as we felt like it.  Whilst the ride was different and allowed us to see many of the resident animals, it didn’t really stop long enough for those of us looking for photographic opportunities. I can honestly say that having ridden on the safari truck once, I don’t personally feel the need to do that part of the experience again.  For me, it simply ate too much into my photographic opportunity time.

The final truck stop was by the entrance of the Carnivore Territory.  As we approached, I noticed that the Scottish Wildcat enclosure was now off show.  Fortunately, there was still access to the Lynx and Caracals who were situated across the road from the Wildcat enclosure. However, unless you have been to Port Lympne before, you would not necessarily know which path to take in order to see them as they are not signposted.

New to us in the Carnivore Territory was the Pallas Cat enclosure.  It is simply enormous and quite lovely for the resident Pallas Cats, of which there are two – both females.

Pallas cat stare

Regular readers of my blog will know how fond I am of Pamir Pallas Cat (location currently unknown) and how pretty I think she is; but I have to say that this little girl comes a close second.

Pallas cat running out of tunnel

She kept us amused for ages by doing a little circuit of the enclosure.  This started off with her disappearing into her log, scampering around the back to emerge into view again from the tunnel below. From there, she would run along a connecting log, have a little scratch and then disappear back into the little log.  Occasionally, she would mix things up a bit, just to keep it interesting for us.

Pallas cat emerging from tunnel at Port Lympne

Meet Delhi and Calcutta, Port Lympne’s resident Bengal tigers.

Male Bengal Tiger

The tigers were located quite close to one of the eating areas and as we were hungry, we decided to have a very late lunch before taking more pictures of them.  The timing of our eating couldn’t have been better.  No sooner had we sat down than the heavens opened up.  It rained heavily for quite some time and by the time it finally abated, the tigers had retired to their den.

Bengal Tiger of Port Lympne

We decided to go and see the Amur tigers but when we arrived, they were all asleep!  As it was getting close to closing time for the park we decided to call it a day and come back another time.  Now that we know the new locations of all the cats, our next visit should be more productive.

Eye of the Tiger

WHF Smarden

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.

Xizi an amur leopardess of WHF Smarden

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.

A Snow Leopard of WHF Smarden

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 Snarling Cheetah from WHF Smarden

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.

Clouded Leopard photographed at WHF Smarden

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.

Sumatran Tiger as photography by Pui Hang Miles at WHF Smarden

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.

Eurasian Lynx at WHF Smarden

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.

Snarling Puma from WHF Smarden

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.

Juvenile fishing cat from WHF Smarden

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.

Tired red panda

Colchester Zoo

After my traumatic experience at London Zoo, one could forgive my reluctance to visit another zoo.  However, having heard how wonderful Colchester Zoo was from a good wildlife photographer friend, David and I decided to visit and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about.

Amur Tiger by Pui Hang Miles

Over the course of the next two months, we spent a lot of weekends at Colchester Zoo as it was a great place to get images of some animals and birds that we would never simply see in the wild.

Amur Leopardess peering around foliage photographed at Colchester Zoo

The cats were a huge draw (obviously!) but it was helped by the fact that Colchester Zoo was home to two of the most adorable red pandas.  They were such great characters and brought many smiles to our faces with their antics.

Red Panda photographed by Pui Hang Miles at Colchester Zoo

The Eurasian Curlew is the largest European wading bird, measuring up to 60 cm in length, with a one metre wingspan.

Eurasian Curlew taken at Colchester Zoo by Pui Hang Miles

The King Vulture is one of the larger species of vulture and had been known to grow to be 32 inches long. Unlike other vultures which are dark in colour, the king vulture is creamy white with darker tail feathers. The skin dropping over their beak is called a wattle and is a bright red-orange.

King Vulture at Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo is home to an impressive pack of Timber Wolves. It as so large that it was often difficult to isolate just one for a photo. Wolves are such beautiful and intelligent creatures and it saddens me that they are so maligned and misunderstood.

Panting wolf by Pui Hang Miles

The african wild dogs with their large ears and puppy dog eyes were so endearing. It’s hard to believe that they have disappeared from much of their original range and are now classed as endangered. It would just amazing to see a wild one if we ever go back to Africa.

Wild Dog photographed by Pui Hang Miles

The lemur enclosure is open topped which means that the ring-tails are able to climb up trees to sit on the bridge and observe us as we walk past them. If you ever decide to visit the lemurs, make sure you have no food on show as they will try to steal it from you!

Lemur at Colchester Zoo looking up

If you love primates, you can’t go far wrong visiting Colchester Zoo. From the tiny pygmy marmosets to the larger gelada baboons, there is something for everyone. Below are three of my favourite primates from the zoo.

White Lioness of Paradise Wildlife Park

Paradise Wildlife Park

David found an experience entitled “Afternoon Tea with the Tigers” which consisted of a tour of the big cats at Paradise Wildlife Park followed by afternoon tea at Tiger Treetops.  We’d visited Paradise last year and had been enchanted by the Pallas Cats and the white lion cubs so thought it might be nice to go back there and re-acquaint ourselves with the cats.

Although the experience was for the afternoon only, we were allowed to visit the park at any time during the day so we decided to go down early and have a quick look around before the experience commenced.

Naturally, I migrated immediately to the red pandas.

Red Panda in bamboo by Pui Hang Miles

As I was photographing the red pandas, I could hear high pitched squeaking coming from next door so I decided to go and investigate.  The source of the squeaks were some incredibly cute asian small-clawed otters. There were too many for me to count and trying to decide which one to photograph was a nightmare as they were all doing such cute things.

asian short clawed otter photographed at Paradise Wildlife Park by Pui Hang Miles

As part of the experience, we met Rocky, the hybrid Amur tiger. Rocky was feeling a bit lonely as he had fallen out with his friend, Narnia the white tiger. As a result, the two cats were kept in separate enclosures. Obviously this was not ideal for either tigers so arrangements were already underway for Narnia to move to WHF and for Indy to relocate from WHF to Paradise Wildlife Park. Indy is no stranger to to Paradise Wildlife Park as she used to reside there and is great friends with Rocky. Moving her back seemed to be the most sensible thing to do.  She is also the tiger on the banners as you approach the park.

Aternoon tea with the tigers at Paradise Wildlife Park

The white lions of Paradise Wildlife Park are one of their star attractions. Kya and her daughter Izulu are the only remaining lions at the park after Thabo, the dominant male passed away over the Christmas holidays and Thembo was moved to Wildlife Heritage Foundation. The last time I had seen Izulu and Thembo, they had been cute little lion cubs. Moving Thembo was unavoidable, especially when he was trying to mate with his mother and sister! Mother and daughter were on stunning form and I look forward to seeing Thembo when I next visit WHF.

Velvet Nose of a White Lion by Pui Hang Miles

Port Lympne Big Cats family

Port Lympne big cats

The Port Lympne big cats have always been a huge attraction so when they announced the birth of 2 Amur tiger cubs on 27 June 2010, visitor figures rocketed.  We had hoped to visit when the cubs made their first public appearance, however, due to various other commitments, we didn’t actually make it down there until today.  The cubs, little sisters called Zaria and Roza were approximately 19 weeks old by this point but they were still small and incredibly cute.

Amur tiger cub at Port Lympne

Their mother Ingrid Alexandra, was named after the Princess of Norway.

Port Lympne big cat - amur tiger

We spent a wonderful hour watching the cubs play and Ingrid delighted us when she decided to give one of her girls a bit of a wash. The interaction between mother and cub was just precious.

Tigress cleaning her cub's ear

The cubs eventually collapsed in a heap from exhaustion – have you ever seen a more sweeter sight than this?

exhausted tiger cubs

With the cubs fast asleep and their parents also settling down, we decided to go and visit Port Lympne’s pride of magnificent Barbary Lionesses.  The Barbary Lion is also known as the Atlas lion as they used to roam the Atlas Mountains.   Personally, I prefer to believe that they were named for the ancient Titan Atlas, doomed forever to hold up the sky as punishment for siding with his fellow Titans against the Olympian gods.

Barbary Lioness

We spent far too much time with the tiger cubs so by the time we got to the snow leopards, the light was starting to go.  I managed to grab a record shot before it was time to leave the park.

Snow Leopard Queen

I guess we will have to come back to see the rest of the Port Lympne big cats and also pay a visit to their smaller cousins, of which there are quite a few here.

Sovereign of Dartmoor Zoo

Dartmoor Zoo

Our visit to Dartmoor Zoo didn’t start particularly well when we woke up to very heavy rain.  Since neither of us had brought anything to protect our cameras from rainwater, there was real concern that the day would turn out to be a washout.  Luckily, by the time we were ready to take pictures, the sky had started to clear.

Dartmoor Zoo is home to three adorable raccoons. Note how the mask of a raccoon is often interrupted by a brown-black streak that extends from forehead to nose.

Raccoon from Dartmoor Zoo

Then we met Fudge and Ben, a couple of Brown Bears.  Fudge looks like a cream colour but he is a Syrian Brown Bear.

Syrian Brown Bear as photographed at Dartmoor Zoo

Ben is a European Brown Bear and Fudge’s best friend.

Bear in the woods

Meet Sovereign, the magnificent Jaguar. I didn’t know it at the time but he is father to Ares who resides at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation. Isn’t he magnificent?

Jaguar in foliage as photographed by Pui Hang Miles at Dartmoor Zoo

Feeding time for the lions.

Lioness chewing on meat

My attempts to take a photograph of all 3 amur tigers together failed miserably on account of two of the cats refusing to play ball so I had to settle for just the one.

Close-up of an amur tiger

The short-clawed otters proved to be quite challenging as they were extremely quick. The lighting in their area was also quite poor so I had to resort to using the flash in order to ensure some decent shots.

short-clawed otter looking up

Last but by no means least, we visited the primate section of the zoo and got some great opportunities with their troupe of vervet monkeys.

vervet monkey at dartmoor zoo

It was a long old day but so worth it as I managed to get some amazing shots of the jaguar and the other big cats there.  I’m also very pleased with my pictures of Sita as to date, I don’t think I’ve been especially successful in getting decent cheetah shots.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed looking at my photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.