Summer 2015 at Whipsnade Zoo

Oh Whipsnade Zoo – how we have neglected you over the last 3 months.  We’re sorry but that stretch from mid-May to the end of term is always the hardest point of the year to visit – and especially now the Sealion Keeper is doing her extended day at school (until 4.15pm) our sneaky after school visits for a picnic and an ice-cream are fond memories rather than reality.

We have yet to finish the academic year but this weekend saw us ‘practising’ for the holidays so we headed up to Whipsnade to catch up with our animal friends, see the new babies and visit the new butterfly house that opened in May.

First on our list – the adorable baby sealion Oscar – who was exactly one month old yesterday.

Oscar, Baby Sealion, ZSL, Whipsnade Zoo

Next time we’re hoping to see him swimming rather than just feeding and snoozing (it’s a hard life being a baby Californian Sealion)

The butterfly house is wonderful – a really lovely space and far less oppressive than the butterfly exhibit at London Zoo.  I was a very lucky girl and received a dedicated macro lens for my birthday – apologies (kind of) for the number of butterfly pictures that I expect will be on my social media feeds.

Swallowtail Butterfly, Butterfly House, Whipsnade Zoo

The West African Crocodiles have also moved into the Butterfly House and look far happier in their new enclosure with a deeper pool and more space.

West African Crocodile, Whipsnade Zoo, Butterfly House

We also headed over to see the baby Ring Tailed Lemurs – not so baby anymore – they’re about 12 weeks old and are growing in independence by the minute.

Ring Tailed Lemur, Baby Ring Tailed Lemur, Whipsnade Zoo,

We couldn’t miss a trip to the Birds of the World show (I reckon I’ve now sat through pushing 200 of these) and it was great to see so many of the macaws flying at the end.

Hyacinth Macaw, Whipsnade Zoo, Birds of the World

We were sat next to a group of Brownies who were awestruck by the whole experience – 6th High Barnet Brownies you were a credit to your leaders and I hoped you were suitably impressed by Apache the American Bald Eagle…

Apache, Whipsnade Zoo, American Bald Eagle

At this point I need to add that I was a complete div and dropped my keys in the Bird Show arena.  Mahoosive thanks have to go to bird trainer Leigh-Ann and Alison from Membership Services for reuniting us with them and being so utterly lovely about it all.

Butterfly garden, Whipsnade Zoo, Lavender

The planting around Whipsnade is stunning at the moment – this is in the Butterfly Garden by the Lemurs

If you’re heading up to Whipsnade Zoo this summer, you might like to read up on our top tips for visiting and also check their website – not only for 10% discount if you book your tickets online but also to see that the rather fantastic Steve Backshall is going to be there on Saturday 25th, Sunday 26th and Monday 27th July doing 4 shows a day.

Having been last year we would certainly recommend going to see Steve (it’s included in the price of your ticket) but allow extra time for travelling!

International Cheetah Day

December 4th is International Cheetah Day – this occasion cannot go unmarked on this blog!  Run by the Cheetah Conservation Fund, the day is aiming to raise awareness of the plight of the cheetah – or in social media speak #savethecheetah.

#savethecheetah, cheetah conservation fund

The Cheetahs in my house are busy at the moment – the main two, Bonnie & Theo are continuing their tennis career whilst the rest of them are considering forming a cricket team and some have formed a harp orchestra.  The Banana People, the Dinos and the Strikes are all back in our lives – which essentially says that the Cheetah Keeper is one stressed and unsettled little dude.  The imaginaries are what gets us through the day at the moment – from the moment he wakes until he goes to sleep, he’s reliant on the reassurance that the Cheetahs bring – even if their antics are mind boggling detailed when I’m  lying in bed and haven’t yet had a cup of tea.  His memory of what the Cheetahs got up to last year (and the year before) on the Christmas lights here in St Albans (as  I blogged about back in 2012) is detailed to the extreme – but he physically relaxes when he’s talking about them – especially when the stories are mixed in with a cuddle or walking hand in hand.

On Monday we had the school ‘occasional day’ – otherwise known as “the teacher’s Christmas shopping day” (have they not heard of the internet like every other working parent…?) so we kept with tradition and headed up to Whipsnade Zoo.  The Keepers had planned this trip back in September – animals, lunch (Whipsnade chips are fantastic), soft play and hot chocolate were all on the list.  Both the Cheetah Keeper and I took photos – he’s developing a really good eye and loves using my Panasonic Lumix bridge camera.

It being a tad (understatement) chilly up there now, different animals are more active – and this means the Whipsnade cheetahs were up and really active.  Not only was one getting really annoyed with it’s tail, they were also keeping a very close eye on all the dumper trucks and builders who were driving past their paddock.  The cubs are over 2 now and have gone from these bundles of fluff:

Cheetah cub, asleep, Acinonyx jubatus, Whipsnade Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo, Cheetah Cubs, Acinonyx Jubatus, International Cheetah Day

Cheetah Cubs, Whipsnade Zoo, Acinonyx Jubatus

To these – confident, agile and beautiful creatures

Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, Whipsnade Zoo, International Cheetah Day

Photo by the Cheetah Keeper

Acinonyx Jubatus, Whipsnade Zoo, Cheetah, International Cheetah Day

You can find out more about International Cheetah Day here (I may have to download the certificate of cheetah achievement!) and when the time is right I’ll update you the score of the [imaginary] Cheetah’s cricket test match series.

Cheetah cubs, Whipsnade Zoo, Acinonyx Jubatus, International Cheetah Day

Zoo Babies

Tiger Cubs, London Zoo, 2014Over the summer we notched up a fair few visits to Whipsnade Zoo, plus one to London Zoo where we managed to give the lovely Cas from Mummy Never Sleeps and her little boy the most whirlwind tour ever.   There are plenty of zoo babies this year and I had been desperate to see the tiger cubs – they’re more teenagers now (sleeping all the time then wanting more food…) and we weren’t disappointed.

Tiger Cub, London Zoo, rare tiger, sleeping tiger

Both London and Whipsnade Zoos have done amazingly well (again) with their breeding programmes this year and it has been an utter delight to photograph all their new arrivals.  Each time we’ve been, I’ve known of another imminent arrival so held off posting and now, with I think just one more to come (I hope) the time has come.  I’ve also chosen to coincide this post with the news that my photo of Hoover the male Hippo at Whipsnade has been awarded “Highly Commended” in the ZSL Photography Competition this year and I’m off this evening to the launch of the exhibition and book.  I am stunned by the news and somewhat overwhelmed that in less than 8 hours, my photo will be on display at London Zoo.  More news of that in a later post I’m sure.

Anyway, back to the Zoo babies and staying at London Zoo…

Flamingo chick, London Zoo, grey flamingo, flamingo baby

Flamingo Chicks

Pengiun chick, London Zoo, hand-reared penguin

Penguin Chick (becoming more independent)

We didn’t see the newest baby squirrel monkeys and the new llamas weren’t posing very well!

Now, up to Whipsnade where we have seen some tiny and some very big babies…

moorhen chick, water bird, Whipsnade Zoo

The Moorhens chose to nest in the Cheetah enclosure – there is still discussion as to whether this is brave or stupid

Patagonian Mara, baby, pups, triplets, Whipsnade Zoo

The Patagonian Mara breed well at Whipsnade – their young are called Pups

As much as these are cute and fluffy, they don’t quite have the “awwww” factor for us regular visitors.  The children love Mara facts though – like when angered they spray wee backwards at you and that they are monogamous for life.

We were fortunate enough to see the Red Panda twins two years ago who were born to Tashi and Pete.  Pete unfortunately is no longer with us, but Tashi has a new partner – Blue.  (I love the sense of humour!)  So what do you call a Red Panda who has a dad called Blue… simple… Indigo!  Here she is:

Red Panda, baby, cub, Whipsnade Zoo, Indigo

Being taken out for a walk

Red Panda Cub, Indigo, baby, Whipsnade Zoo, Ailurus fulgens

Being popped away in her nest. The Cubs are born grey but start turning red between 2 and 3 months

On the island next door to the Red Pandas, Whipsnade have created a breeding group of Ring Tailed Lemurs.  We saw them when they were still being carried around by their mums and although cute, weren’t really posing for the camera.  Fast forward a couple of weeks and we saw them again, with boundless energy and up to all sorts

Ring Tailed Lemur, Whipsnade Zoo

Look what I can do Mum!

Ring tailed lemur, pups, babies, Whipsnade Zoo

A baby lemur is called a pup

Some more birds for you now.  The Carribean Rosy Flamingoes have bred before but from the talks we’ve been to, we understand they’re not particularly good at incubating their eggs (although far better than the Ostriches who lay and then forget).  This year though, they seem to have sussed it out and there are several chicks – they will stay grey for a while – turning pink completely in about 3 years time.  Their mums lose some colour so are a little pale at the  moment.

Rosy Flamingo, Chick, Baby, whipsnade Zoo

The chicks are looked after in a creche in the flamingo flock – this one isn’t quite as fluffy now

Rosy Flamingo chick, flamingo feeding chick, Whipsnade Zoo

The mothers regurgitate food for their young who squawk whilst being fed

After hatching triplets last year, the Great Grey Owls have successfully hatched another chick this year.  I am becoming very fond of the Great Grey Owls – mainly because they look so expressive (mainly in a disapproving or condescending way) all the time.  The chick was very keen to try out flying but wasn’t very good at landing which is funny, even if you are trying really hard to think it isn’t and he’s just learning.  When we saw him at the weekend, he was much improved

Great Grey Owl, chick, Whipsnade Zoo, baby

The next arrival was just shorter than me when she arrived.  Born to Ijuma, this gorgeous female giraffe calf is so full of energy – running and bouncing around everywhere.  Her half sister Willow was much more reserved (maybe being a winter baby the barn was a nicer place to be?) but they seem to be firm friends already

Baby Giraffes, whipsnade zoo

The newest arrival with Willow who was born late last year

The chances are, this new one will be called Luna – she is so inquisitive and just lovely

Baby giraffe, Whipsnade Zoo, giraffe calf

She was about 175cm tall when I took this

The baby Zebra has done well and is becoming more independent too – although still likes standing in the middle of the field to make photos harder to take

ebra foal, baby zebra, Whipsnade Zoo,

Whilst in the ‘Passage Through Asia’ the deer breed and breed.  The Yak calf and the baby camels from last year are also doing well

Deer, Fawn, Passage Through Asia, Whipsnade Zoo

The baby hippo (Holly) has been hard to photograph this summer as when she’s outside she tends to stay very close to her mum.  However (and please excuse the picture but it tells the story) when her keeper has his hosepipe out…

Holly Hippo, baby Hippo, Whipsnade Zoo

Every time he moved away she snorted at him to do it again

And finally… The elephant breeding programme at Whipsnade has been running successfully for many years and this year is no exception.  After a tip off, I was lucky enough to get up to Whipsnade yesterday and spend a blissful 90 minutes photographing the newest addition to the herd.  At just 30 hours old and weighing in at 133kg, this little boy is a wondrous bundle of fluffy, tottering cuteness who will hopefully help ensure that there are Asian elephants in the world for many years to come.

Baby Elephant, Elephant Calf, Whipsnade Zoo, 1 day old elephant

30 hours old – with half sister Donna

Isn’t he just so cute????

Baby elephant, one day old elephant, Whipsnade Zoo, elephant calf

With the rest of the herd