Had a marvellous experience of wildlife photography at Port Lympne animal park. A special day for a small group of photographers, first on a ‘safari’ tour (unfortunately a bit ‘light’ on the animal front due to the ghastly morning weather!). Some bizarrely bedraggled ostriches with mad expressions
The Education Officer gave us some interesting facts, like it takes 45 mins to boil an Ostrich egg!
We saw some large four-legged herd creatures like Wildebeest, Eland and Water Buffalo. Great to see them without fences. We were looked after very well by the Education Officer and the resident Photographer. We saw the bachelor Gorillas. They are always a crowd puller, and despite their great power and strength seem to almost ignore the gaping tourists. I was surprised that the scientific (i.e. Latin) name for these creatures is ‘gorilla gorilla gorilla’ – I feel that displays a lack of imagination by the earlier discoverers of these magnificent creatures.
I was interested to learn that in the family gorilla group, the male was a sole survivor from a family group that had been butchered in the wild. He had been kept and tormented until rescued. Although he had the appearance of a ‘normal’ gorilla, even today he could become visibly upset by loud children’s voices or dark faces. A very human condition, to be sure, given the circumstances of his youth. A psychologically damaged creature.
The big cats were amazing, but hard to photograph because of the protective wire barrier. Better just to watch and admire.
The lions were the first we saw, lolling about asleep on top of a shed, having been fed only a day or so ago. The tigers became active when they heard a truck arrive, obviously used to the appearance of their keeper and/or food. At the same time, the lions too woke up and looked on as spectators, rather like us.
These Barbary lions were the lions used by the Romans in the gladiator battles, even throwing the occasional Christian to them. Apparently the largest of the lion species. Our guide told us that it has been necessary to castrate the male lion since there had been too many cubs and a risk of inbreeding. Unfortunately for the poor lion, the lack of testosterone made his mane fall out.
After lunch we had a special moment INSIDE the enclosure with the Colobus and De Brazza monkeys. They were curious and a little timid, but pinched peanuts from their keeper’s pockets!.
It was amazing to be close enough to touch these amazing creatures. It is also good to see so many endangered creatures flourishing in protected conditions. There are always arguments for and against zoos, but when so much of their natural habitat is being destroyed for commercial reasons, these refuges may be their only chance of survival. The successful breeding program illustrates that these creatures are able to adapt and enjoy their new homes.
Who knows, I may be starting an ‘creatureshotz’ website some time soon. I loved the opportunity to get close to exotic animals but unless I can travel to see more of these creatures in the wild, I think I shall concentrate on creatures nearer to home. I admire the photographers who capture amazing animal photos in the wild, but I am probably going to look towards pets of all sorts! Let me know if your pet deserves a portrait worthy of a place on the wall.