Sparkwell

Dartmoor Zoological Park

We visited Dartmoor Zoological Park today, and when I asked the children what they enjoyed most – we saw Siberian Tigers, African Lions, Brown Bears and two Macaws that could say “hello” and “goodbye” like a demented Mark Almond – they said,

“Those sweet little red foxes.”

A couple of foxes which were probably institutionalised by the previous owner, and which should, by rights, be out chancing their luck against the shooting skills of the local farmers.

We could have just sat in a nearby field until dusk, and saved ourselves some cash.

What is it that makes children choose as their favourite activity, the one thing we could have done at home?

They enjoyed the otters though. It must have been nearly feeding time, because every time someone new walked up to look at them, they set up a whiny, begging performance, hoping this person was the one with the fish.

The wildlife park has just re-opened after new owners took over.
The last time I went the children were 2 (Ben) and a few months (Hannah) and it was a sad place filled with desperate animals who rocked from side to side and prowled up and down the fences.

It’s been closed for a year, staff from reputable zoos with established captive breeding programmes have been drafted in, as well as a Wolf expert to sort out the animals’ incessant howling.
Apparently the wolves’ natural hierarchy had been disrupted by their food being put in the same place at the same time every day.

That way they were all eating together at the same time, which is not the wolf’s way.

Feeding is accomplished through the pack hierarchy, with the higher ranking individuals eating first and the lesser wolves eating last. As a result, the higher ranking wolves get the greatest percentage of food and the best portions in comparison to the lower ranked wolves.

So now the food is put in different places at different times, the hierarchy has been restored and the wolves are happy. The staff also play recordings of other wolves to make the animals think there are competing packs nearby. This makes them work together against a common threat.
A bit like a football team.

All interesting stuff. Unless you’re a child. In which case the most interesting stuff is in the gift shop.

Ben brought along a wallet full of cash, purloined from who knows where, and splashed out on a packet of vile Cola sweets and a very bouncy ball.

Hannah was content with a badge she’d made in the Activity Centre and a few of my rhubarb and custard sweets, old-style confectionery being one of the attractions of the gift shop.

The new owners park bought the park after selling a property in Surrey.

So, what would you go for – a big house and garden in Surrey, or a 30 acre wildlife park plus 200 exotic animals and a 12-bedroom house in Devon?

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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5 Responses to Sparkwell

  1. Rilly Super says:

    we miss the otters that used to live at the sanctuary at Bowes. They used to know the feeding routine so were unperturbed by anyone not riding a quadbike with a smelly fishy bucket on the back. Must schedule a trip to the zoo into the summer hols…

  2. Drunk Mummy says:

    Whenever we used to ask our kids about their favourite part of some exhausting and intensely educational day out that we had been on, they always used to answer ‘The ice cream.’

  3. This is too weird. I have quoted Soft Cell at the top of my blog today and I’ve just clicked over here…

    Cue the Twilight Zone music …

  4. Beta Mum says:

    RS – how nice to hear from you again. I trust your holiday was fun…

    DM – they really are a bunch of ingrates, aren’t they?

    M&M – that is weird. Blog synchronisation. By the way, that is such journo speak “the top of my blog”!

  5. Omega Mummy says:

    How would the pack thing work with competitive mothers? It would be such fun to play recordings of other competitive mothers comparing weight of reading book and seeing if the first group worked together to ward off the threat……

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