Baby Ring-Tailed Lemur

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.

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.

Pug mark

Bandhavgarh Tiger Safari

Our tiger safari was full of amazing tiger sightings and their stories touched my heart. I thought it was fitting that our first tiger sighting was of B2, Lord of Bandhavgarh. He looked old (which he was) but you could feel the power and majesty emanating from this magnificent big cat.

B2 photographed during our tiger safari

Meeting Mirchani Tigress and her three cubs was also memorable but for different reasons. Little did we know that in just a few short years, her two male cubs would be captured and imprisoned in Bhopal Zoo, accused of being man-eaters.

Tiger cub crossing the road

Chorbehra, also known as “Langdi (limping) Tigress”, was a firm favourite. She ruled the meadow and could be frequently found sitting in the river, watching her cubs while they played. The brother and sister cubs have a tough time sustaining themselves as their mother’s limp means she was unable to make frequent enough kills.

Tiger cub in the bushes as photographed on our tiger safari

Kallu is a son of B2 and the heir apparent to all his father’s lands.  Though not as big or as strong as his father, this young male is cunning.  Our guide told us that in every challenge fight to date, Kallu had lost to his father, but somehow, he was still managing to take over parts of B2’s kingdom.

Kallu tiger stare

During one of our game drives our driver suggested a visit to the 35 foot long statue of Vishnu which is located halfway up to Bandhavgarh Fort. Carved out of a single piece of sandstone, this statue was a sight to behold.

The path leading to and the area where the statue is located looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie – there is water falling into a pool just below the statue and monkeys chasing each other across the statue.

statue of vishnu

Vishnu is the God of Preservation. The statue dates back to the 10th Century and shows Vishnu reclining on a bed of the coils of  the seven hooded serpent, called Sheshnag.

Whilst the tiger was our primary target species, the park is full of other fantastic wildlife such as the elusive sloth bear.

Sloth Bears in Bandhavgarh National Park, where you can also photograph Bengal Tigers

This sighting was an extremely lucky one as we almost drove past the black mound, which turned out to be a mother sloth bear standing on her back legs with her cub sitting on her shoulders. As soon as she realised that we had seen her she dropped to all fours and ran away with her cub clinging to her for dear life.

Sambar deer were in plentiful supply and proved to be our friend many a time by making alarm calls whenever a tiger was nearby.

sambar deer in water

The langurs and their babies provided us with hours of entertainment with their antics. The extremely young babies were instantly identifiable by the fact that their fur was dark rather than the trademark white.

Baby langur monkey

Just look at how wonderfully expressive their faces  are.

Langur Monkey

The park is also home to many different species of birds. However, since I am not a huge bird fan, I didn’t make much of an effort to photograph them, with the exception of this stork who simply looked evil!

Stork

After our last game drive was over, we headed back to the lodge for breakfast before heading out to Katni Junction to get our train. Upon arriving in Delhi, we transferred to our last hotel, the Bijaj Indian Home Stay. As our flight home wasn’t until the following morning, the day was ours to do whatever we liked. We planned to do a spot of shopping, but our trip was cut short because it was simply too hot to be wandering around the shops.

The flight home felt anti-climatic after the excitement of 6 days in Bandhavgarh and the trip turned out to be more expensive than I had anticipated. I came home wanting my own digital SLR and powerful zoom lens. The photographic beast had been unleashed!