Shad does the West Midland Safari Park

Nothing melts the heart like a baby elephant as you can see from these lovely pics of Sutton, the first baby elephant to be born at West Midland Safari Park in its 41 year history.  At birth, African elephants can weigh 100 kgs and stand at 3 feet tall, growing anything up to 12,000 kg (14,000 lbs) and 13 feet tall at full maturity, making them the largest land animals on earth.  As John and I watched this little lad playing and bonding with his mum and auntie, I felt a huge sense of sadness at the fate of many of his cousins roaming the wilds of Africa.  Nevertheless, it was a privilege to see him flap his ears and practice using his trunk to grab branches and swing it in the breeze.  According to National Geographic, the trunk alone contains around 100,000 muscles and is used for lots of fun activities like smelling, drinking and trumpeting.  Sutton was very cute and put  smile on my furry face (metaphorically speaking of course) as I watched him gaze lovingly at his mum, copying her movements and sheltering under her tummy every time he felt shy.



The safari trail is a 4 mile drive that takes you through a range of habitats within the park which is situated in deepest Worcestershire.  The African Plains is home to a herd of white rhino’s who meander freely around their enclosure, munching on grass and hanging out with the zebras and giraffes that also live there.  The giraffes were so tall that I couldn’t see their faces without cocking my head sideways and lifting it up to a 90° tilt, but I had the chance to look them in the eye as they bent their 6 foot necks down to eat the food being handed to them by people in the cars.



The Wild Woods enclosure provides board and lodgings to an Asiatic wild dog called a dhole. These rusty red-coloured creatures are highly social animals and live in close-knit packs.  I admired their russet coats but was quite pleased that they were far enough away not to see me.  Being a pussy cat I could tell their canine instincts would have been strong enough to pick up my scent and I’m sure they can run pretty fast.  Although probably not as fast as the cheetah, the world’s fast land mammal capable of speeds of up to 70 miles an hour.



One of the most fascinating animals we saw was the Indian rhinoceros (also known as the greater one-horned rhino) with its segmented hide that looks armour-plated.  They made me chuckle because from behind they look like they’re wearing a skirt, hence the photos of rhino bottoms.  See if you can tell which one is the Indian and which is the white rhino.  Their prominent horns are unfortunately their downfall and many animals have been killed for this hard, hair-like growth which is used in traditional Asian medicines even though there is no evidence that it cures any ailments.  In this civilised and high-tech world, I find it barbaric and backward that some humans choose to hunt a species to the brink of extinction just to make money.  Despite protection and an international trade ban in rhino horn, it is still traded extensively throughout Asia.



Thankfully I cheered up when I caught sight of a fine feline specimen, the Sumatran tiger.  The Sumatran tiger is only found in the wild on the island of Sumatra in Indonisia and is another critically endanged sub-species of tiger.  It’s the only surviving member of the Sunda Islands group of tigers that included the now extinct Bali tiger and Javan tiger.  That’s why keeping these animals in captivity is essential so that they can one day become the breeding stock and gene-pool for future generations who will hopefully be returned to the wild as part of carefully planned reintroduction projects aimed at re-establishing a species in an area which was once part of its historical range and where it has become extinct.  I spotted some more big-cat cousins in the Realm of the Lions enclosure, an impressive landscape designed to imitate the savannah grassland.  It contains boulders, plants and a sculpted lion head rockwork from which a waterfall cascades into a pool below.  Check out the magnificent African lion sitting on top of the sculpture surveying her realm.



John and I had a good time at the West Midland Safari Park but we definitely chose the wrong day to go.  It was a Bank Holiday and the huge volume of cars on the safari made it difficult to get a good view of the animals.  There is a zoo section at the site but it’s really a theme park full of rides aimed at children more than adults.  However it was worth the stroll around the amusement park to see this amazing posse of hippos.  Normally having a reputation for doing not much during the day and coming to life at night, these hippos were busy waddling from one pool to the next, splashing each other, seeing who could submerge under the water the longest and showing off their teeth.  Their big shiny bodies seemed slow on the grassy bank of their lake but appeared graceful in the water where they all stood in a circle like they were having a good old gossip.




Shad does Dudley Zoo

The West Midlands was our destination, Dudley Zoo the organisation, 2 or 3 hours was the travel duration to visit Daseep the Sumatran tiger was our expectation.  She is a special feline relation because of her work in conservation; hopefully she’ll exert a lot of persuasion to ensure the future of her generation.


Don’t know what came over me just then, I went all Oscar Wilde!  Alright, I know, my poetry is more comparable to Pam Ayres than a great literary artist like Oscar Wilde.  Although I’m not disrespecting the lovely Pam, she is a talented and entertaining lady.  Anyway, I digress!  Daseep was chosen this year as the face of an international conservation campaign that supported Global Tiger Day held on 29th July to raise awareness of the shocking reality of the world’s tiger populations.  According to a Dudley Zoo spokesperson, there are now just 3,500 tigers left in the wild, of which there are fewer than 140 surviving Sumatrans.  Three year old Daseep and two year old male Joao are paired as part of an international project to safeguard one of the world’s most critically endangered species.  Check out the whiskers on these beautiful animals, and the facial markings so bold and striking.  I’m not jealous!


Dudley Zoo (in the Black Country region of the West Midlands) looks as though it is built on platforms in a circular pattern that surrounds Dudley Castle on top of a hill.  It has over 1,000 animals representing over 200 different species like these Chilean flamingos that seem to enjoy standing on one leg and the otters and sea lions that started yawning every time I got my camera out.  Some of the animals were struggling to keep cool in the recent hot weather so the zoo splashed out on cold showers for the Asiatic black bear and cooling fans for the meerkats.  The monkeys and apes were treated to fruit-filled lollies and staff have been applying suncream to the sensitive skins of creatures who are normally hidden from direct sun by the South American jungle.


One of the big attractions at the zoo right now is a trio of special new arrivals born to four year old mum Daisy the lynx (Carpathian lynx to be precise).  They are the first of their species to be born at Dudley and have recently started to explore their outdoor enclosure.  Born in May this year, the cubs appear to be developing nicely and Daisy is doing a grand job as a first-time mum alongside three year old dad Dave.  Then there’s the orangutans who are partial to a drink of squash and had a unique way of drilling straight through me with their eyes, like they knew what I was thinking.  This cheeky orangutan was called Jarong and had the biggest cheek chops I have ever seen!  I saw the giraffes whose pace of life is slow to very slow and they were so relaxed that they let the keeper rub their tummies.


The highlight for me had to be meeting the snow leopard cub Makalu who was born on 17th April.  He is making excellent progress, bonding with his mum, gaining weight and chasing anything that moves.  He was named after one of the world’s highest mountain ranges within the Himalayan region bordering Nepal and China were his species apparently originates.  What a privilege to witness these exotic and rare wild animals share their experiences of family life with us.  Roar!!!