Saturday, 20 October 2007


We had 'ummed' and 'arred' about going to Drusilla's Wildlife Park on the way home on Monday. In the end, we decided to call in as we did have to basically pass the entrance to it on our return journey. We were both astounded by it, and found that it was not at all what we were expecting. It is quite simply a fantastic place to spend a couple of hours - or even a whole day. The residents all looked happy and content and the enclosures were up to date and animal-friendly. The outside cages had the usual wire, but only on the top half, with the area around the bottom half being made up of glass panels so that visitors could see inside. The living quarters were full of well-thought out contents and were well kept and clean.

The whole place is neat and tidy and well cared for - one thing that was very noticeable immediately was the presence of a good compliment of staff who were all very friendly and approachable.

There are little 'Animal Spotter' booklets for the children to stamp - reminiscent of the 'I-Spy' books I had as a child - and a very clever little 'Zoolympics Challenge Record Book' for them to fill in which gives them a chance to compare, for example, how long they can jump in relation to a wallaby. This is achieved by cleverly placing a miniature 'long-jump' area for them to try out. This place really gets the young involved, and the paths around the zoo are well signposted and littered with well-thought out information points, geared up to teaching children and adults alike, about the animals in residence.

There is a huge play area for the children, but this is not reached until after all the animals have been visited. The front cover of the guidebook states 'no ordinary zoo' and they have definitely got that right!

Apart from the tamarinds, which I absolutely adore, my favourites here were the porcupines, and the capybara. The porcupines are usually in bed during the day, but as their room-mates (yellow mongooses) were being fed, they decided to come out and see what was up for grabs. Looking a bit like giant mobile mint humbugs with their stripey spines, they bumbled about collecting as much food as they could. And as for their hairdos, well what can I say?

The capybara, I realised with embarrassed amusement, was actually answering a very long and protracted call of nature, but didn't seem to bat an eyelid as he went about his 'business' while I was taking photos. However, I didn't feel it quite right to continue photographing him, so when I cottoned on I left him to it.

Talking of bats, the fruit bat enclosure was amazing. Once through the heavy plastic blinds that hang across the doorway, we found ourselves right in amongst them, rather than peering through glass or wire. They were just hanging around, minding their own business, with their wings wrapped around their little bodies. I like bats, but I can see why some people think of them as rather malevolent - I suppose they could be described as looking like evil seed pods, twitching every so often as if threatening to open up and release spores of destruction (or is that just my over-active imagination?). One of them was even on the floor by our feet, and at first we wondered whether it was OK, but it then decided to crawl its way across to the other side of the room, and clamber up the wall back to a roosting spot on an overhanging branch.

And there is a bug house too, full the usual spiders, stick insects and millipedes etc, but the vivs are sympathetic to their needs and obviously well tended. There is also a fantastic colony of leaf-cutter ants, which I could just sit and watch for ages as they go about their business, marching back and forth with their booty in neat lines of single lane traffic.

We could not spend as much time as we would have liked at Drusillas as we still had a six hour journey home to face, but we will certainly revisit if we are in the area.

Just a quick game of 'stone-scissors-paper'

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