Friday, 30 April 2010
Posted in May 2008, this piece of video has caught the attention of an American TV production company, Base Productions.
They've put together a six-person team, led by former FBI special agent Ben Hansen who'll be visiting DZP to interview staff for opinions of this and other sightings. They'll also be gathering physical evidence such as big cat prints, faeces and fur, to take into the field to aid their investigations.
The team of investigators will be accompanied by Danny Bamping, founder of the British Big Cats Society.
The BBCS published the results of a survey in 2004 which collected data from The NFU, several police forces and wildlife organisations from across the country. It ranked the South West very highly for big cat sightings and stongly suggested that the government take the phenomenon more seriously.
The general opinion among those that know here at DZP is that there is little question that in the past, big cats of one kind or another have found their way into the wilds of Britain. However, whether they have been able to survive and, more importantly, breed healthy offspring is a much harder question to answer.
However slim the chances of a healthy population of big cats on the moor, it's worth taking these sightings seriously. If there are big cats out there today, then it's a population that's survived against incredible odds and therefore deserving of study and support.
Monday, 19 April 2010
Head Keeper Colin Northcott is getting somewhat of a reputation for spotting rare wildlife around DZP. Hot on the heels of his recent spotting of a red kite, today he found what we're pretty sure is an Oil Beetle.
Otherwise known as a Blister Beetle, thanks to an oil secreted from its joints which can cause a variety of skin irritations, the Oil Beetle is part of a family that share a fascinating life-cycle. The larvae are parasitic upon some types of bees and grasshoppers. When hatched, they climb a flower stem and wait for a bee. Then, hitching a ride on the bee they gain entry to the hive where they feed on bee's eggs, pollen and nectar. The larvae then pupate in the bees nest, leaving to seek a mate once mature.
The species, meloe proscarabaeus is bluish black in colour with a long swollen abdomen. We believe the one pictured here is male since the abdomen in the female is particularly pronounced. We are able to make this comparison because we actually found two in the same area.
As far as we are able to establish, the status of the beetle is 'vulnerable' numbers having declined drastically in recent years. One of the causes is thought to be the decline in bee population.
We'll be keeping a sharp eye out for the Oil Beetle in future. In the interests of their future welfare we suggest you do likewise.
Having educated all key staff on the status of the Oil Beetle, we just released this male back into the wild. Astonishingly the female we spotted yesterday was still around. They looked very happy together...
Saturday, 10 April 2010
This wonderful majestic bird gave zoo staff a visit this morning. Believed to be a female, she was circling overhead at low level. A beautiful sunny day showing off her colours in the sunlight. A first for most zoo staff.
Although Red Kites have been seen in the area before it has been many years since the last sighting. Their decline has meant that sightings are extremely rare now. This Kite is the first for many years and we hope that this may be the start of many more visits for this region.
This magnificent bird of prey is unmistakable with its reddish brown body, angled wings and forked tail.
At one time confined to Wales, a long running protection program has successfully re-introduced Red Kites to England and Scotland. The nearest areas of re-introduction to Devon are Central Wales and Central England so for Kites to be seen in Devon must mean that they are successfully spreading throughout the country.
Have you seen Red Kites near you?
Or if you know the best places to see Red Kites?
Saturday, 3 April 2010
As an animal keeper for many years, it is innevitable that i have run into this debate before. Whilst working in the midlands i was called upon by local police forces, on several occassions, to help with reports of "big cat" sightings. I would accompany them to the scene of the sighting and check for evidence. I have found spoor, (feaces), scratch marks, foot prints and fur on many of the sites but i cannot confirm that any of the evidence found came from a big cat.
Monday, 22 March 2010
Spring is arriving at the zoo and the natural flora and fauna is in full swing.
Dartmoor zoo is a haven for animals and birds that are free to come and go. Over 30 species of wild bird have been recorded at the zoo from the tiny Goldcrest to the huge Buzzard and Raven. The Jackdaws are nest building around the main house and the wrens have taken up residence just outside the office window. The wild bird chorus in the morning and evening at this time of year is a cacophany of sound as they compete for the best territories. Look around the trees as you wander through the zoo at the nest boxes placed throughout. The Blue Tits are nesting everywhere. We eagerly await the imminent arrival of the Swallows that will soon be ducking and weaving in our large open, soon to be African paddock, opposite the restaurant. The male birds are in full colour now trying to catch the eye of the females, and our resident Peacocks are in full tail too, fanning their spectacular plumage to everything that'll take a look. Woodpeckers are drumming in the new season and the Tree Creepers are busy scurrying up and down the giant oak trees.
The flora is in full cycle with the changing colours throughout spring. The snowdrops are just finishing their flourish and are making way for the crocuses and daffodils. Soon it will be the turn of the bluebells and the rhododendron. We also have many rarer plants like the Australian fern, lime trees, eucolyptus and evergreen oak.
As you walk up the main drive you will see our large pond used by our Capybara. Take a closer look at the waters edge and you will see that the frogs have spawned leaving huge clumps of jellied eggs. The pond will be alive with tadpoles before long. At the top of the drive, behind the eucalyptus tree, another small pond is home to several newts and dragonfly will soon adorn the reeds later in the spring.
Whatever time of year you come, keep a sharp eye out. As well as our exhibit animals there is a world of natural beauty around you. So you can be sure of a natural spectacle. Look beyond the enclosures.
There's more to Dartmoor zoo than just a zoo, if you just take another look around.
In advance of the first DZP Wildlife Art Competition and Exhibition, we thought we'd give you a sample of the standard we can expect.
Here's a selection of web sites from a few of the applicants.
Applications are still open - deadline is 8th May 2010.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Every Saturday and Sunday in March Kids go FREE at DZP!
Yes, as long as they're accompanied by at least one full paying adult and you consider a no-obligation donation to our Monkey Mayhem fundraiser kids go free every weekend in March.
So - bring your little monkeys to help out our little monkeys!
Monday, 1 March 2010
We've donated over £1000 in prizes, including Keeper for a Day experiences for adults and juniors, to the Plymouth Twestival.
Twestival™ (or Twitter Festival) is a global charity event which uses social media for social good. On Thursday 25 March 2010, people in hundreds of cities around the world will come together offline to raise money and create awareness for Concern Worldwide.
All of the local events are organized 100% by volunteers and 100% of all ticket sales and donations go direct to projects. The Plymouth Twestival will be hosted by Plymouth Argyle and will feature a number of bands including, Francis and the Drakes, Kitty and the Lost Boys and The Delahays.
You can keep up-to-date with developments at the Plymouth Twestival web site. If you feel like getting right into the social media spirit you can follow the organisers on twitter, as well as become a fan on facebook.
So get yourself some Twestival tickets, have a bunch of fun, do some good for charity and maybe even get yourself a Keeper for a Day into the bargain.
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Development of our new monkey enclosure is well under way.
As I'm sure many of you know we have been raising funds for our new Vervet monkey enclosure to give them a bigger and better home. Work is well under way, the house is already built and in position, the posts and mesh are on order and most of the outside furnishing is done. We are aiming for the opening at Easter. We have almost reached our target but still need a bit more money.
Friday, 29 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
At Dartmoor Zoo we have a carefully designed enrichment programme which means that our animals receive a variety of different types of enrichment on a regular basis. We monitor and record their response to the items we provide so that we know what is successful with each species or individual, and what we need to change or withdraw altogether. A few weeks ago one of our keepers had the idea of hanging up a pelt for some of our small carnivores. They would normally have skin and fur present on their meat, but on its own, and hanging from a branch it encouraged a great deal of activity both from our female red fox Bramble and our female Siberian lynx Kiruna. Kiruna can be seen with this enrichment in the short video clip below.
Friday, 8 January 2010
This week at Dartmoor Zoo we have not escaped the heavy snowfall, icy roads and freezing conditions that have plagued the country. On Wednesday morning the treacherous driving conditions meant that many staff were unable to even get to the zoo. Hundreds of schools and offices in Devon have been shut for the last few days, but when animals are involved, life must go on as normal. They of course still need to be fed, watered, cleaned out and cared for, the same as every other day. Most of the keeping staff have made it in every day so far to do just this. Zoo keeping is hard work at the best of times, but this week that has been an understatement!
The keepers' favourite weapon is a long metal pole with a large bar on the end. It is very heavy and you can always tell who's done the cat round because they are collapsed over the table at break time!
Thursday, 7 January 2010
Pip McGarry, Chairman of the Marwell International Wildlife Art Society, describes himself as a self- taught artist but attributes his natural talent to his artistic family background. Working mainly in oils, his originals are extremely popular. His success has enabled him to raise thousands of pounds for a variety of conservation projects including the Dambari Field Research Station for Black Rhinos in Zimbabwe, the Epulu Okapi Game Reserve Appeal in Zaire, and Save the Tiger. He has hosted several art exhibitions across the country and is keen to make use of the excellent facilities here at DZP.
The competition will cover five categories; World Mammals, Birds, British Wildlife, Animals in Action and All Other Wildlife. Pip, who has also judged the BBC Wildlife Art Competition, will head a panel of three judges for the competition which will be open to anyone over 17 years of age.
Entry deadline is the 8th May and artists’ submissions must be delivered to the zoo on Sunday 23rd May. The top 50 pictures will be chosen and exhibited at DZP for a private viewing on Friday 28th May. The exhibition will then be open to the public on the 29th May for 7 days during which visitors will have the opportunity to purchase an original work for themselves.
We intend this to be the first of many exhibitions which will include photographic and sculptural works. The zoo is the perfect setting for such events, and Pip’s track record as an artist and event organiser make this one a must-see. Works from Pip’s previous exhibitions are rated among the best in the country.
If you feel inspired to take part why not use our animals as subjects? Our excellent open-front enclosures are ideal for anyone trying to capture images of wildlife at its best.
For competition entry details please contact George Hyde. For more information about Pip McGarry and a sample of his excellent work visit: www.pipmcgarry.com.