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.

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.