Talking to the animals

Never would I have thought in the early hours of the morning on the 4th July when I was writing my Bucket List that just over a month later that with the kind help of my friend Lorraine Oliver and the wonderful Josephine at South Lakes Zoo that I would be ticking off one – and what an experience.

I hate being late and knew it was around an hour to get to the Zoo so after taking the boys out for their morning walk VERY early and having some breakfast to fortify me I set off at 7.30am for a 9am meet. Those that know me will know this has happened so often, Sat Nav decides it doesn’t like the postcode and I am there eagle eyed looking for Elephant signs that denotes that I am on the correct path.

Well that worked for so long and the I ran out of elephants! Had to make do with an attendant at a local service station and also a man walking his dog when I actually drove straight past the car park. I can get anywhere! Ended being 15 minutes late.

Masked up waited in-line with the already building queue until I could tell them I had arrived. Staff were lovely and attentive and it wasn’t long before I was met by Keeper Michael who had been at South Lakes 3 years and deals mainly with the carnivores but knew everything about all the animals (or so it appeared to me)

All the animals know Michael by his dulcet tones and the rattle of his feeding bucket and certainly reacted to it. We headed first to the Reindeer and they were eager to be fed first. A young girl with her family asked “are they going to fly?” well honey not for another 4 months and hoping they fly over this part of Yorkshire.

When Jo emailed me and asked me what was my favourite animal was (in a zoo) I said elephant not realising they didn’t have any there, Michael explained that its all to do with space and they need such a large amount so I struggled to think which animal would take my heart. Well the next animal did it.

The White Rhino – White rhinoceros are the largest extant (non-extinct) rhinos in the world. Their name is a misnomer, as they are a very similar colour (grey) to black rhinos, but instead were likely named “wijd” rhinos. “Wijd” means “wide” in dutch and would have referred to their wide lips that they use for eating grass. Black rhinos may have simply been named after the opposite colour, and have pointed small lips.

I was allowed to get up close and personal with the females of the herd and they are so gentle wanting rubs of their thick leathery skin. Their eyes were big and doleful and I had no fear as I might have in the wild – maybe the fence had something to do with it but I sensed that they knew their place in life at the Zoo and it was somewhere near the top so had no need to to be angry. The males on the other hand behind me seemed slightly different……but then they are male!

Walking to our next feed we were met with another keeper with a wheelbarrow – well lots of animals lots of poo and I didn’t think anything about it until he picked Lou up – a massive tortoise and when he put her down boy could she run! I mentioned she was just like one of my friends with the same name!

Bears I have always felt sorry for because I associated them with a lot of cruelty, being kept in cages and being made to dance for tourists. We came to feed the bears (the ones that would have been Paddington) and one was on its legs dancing to see us. Michael said that they discouraged this when feeding, making them forage for their food.

Birds are not usually my biggest loves and I am quite nervous of things like Swans, Emus geese, well anything really with a beak – think its because I saw the film The Birds when younger and its never left me. But all the animals and birds were so well behaved -maybe I should walk round all the time with a keeper!

The next on our list was one I had the pleasure to feed in 2006 when I was in OZ and I can remember them being totally laid back then and this was the Roos – Red and Grey Kangaroos. Today was a scorcher so I could imagine them lying there thinking of Life Down Under…

Sticking to the path wasn’t on our agenda as we were allowed to wander everywhere and saw the primates that were allowed to run free in the trees with the younger generation always trying to get one over on the older only to be severely reprimanded.

The penguins were doing what we all wanted to do in the unusually hot Cumbrian weather they were having a dip in the pool, first dipping their toes then fully immersing they black and white bodies into the cool water. Not feeding time yet but they knew what was to come.

And then came my boys…..a little nervous at first, didn’t know whether to come or just stay eating what they had or take the juicy leaves that we had to offer. The GIRRAFFES!! But come they did and they didn’t hang about. This ended the most fantastic experience.

I was supposed to be feeding penguins at 2.45 but after a lunch of fish and chips (and not forgetting the 99 ice-cream) which showed my blood sugars were low and my hip was painful from about 4 hours of walking I decided that all the animals that I missed and there were loads would still be there another day.

Camera that I took with me died a death before I even got the South Lakes and my iphone battery even on 100% died after 2 hours so need something more reliable for all future memories. Once again I am so grateful for everyone for making this possible. Whatever peoples pre conceived idea of what zoos are like this is a fantastic one with great staff, please support it.

Can’t wait to go back.



Chief Seattle

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