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Rescued bears get their first taste of the new enclosure
The Wildwood team are celebrating after reaching another milestone in their quest to rehabilitate their two rescued bears.
The animals, which were once described in the national media as “Europe’s saddest bears”, have finally had their first taste of their fantastic new woodland home after being rescued from horrendous living conditions last year.
The bears, two males aged around 16 years, were rescued by Wildwood from a life of misery and neglect in an abandoned bear breeding centre in southern Bulgaria. Both animals were born in the centre and had been trapped inside ever since, enduring the harshest of living conditions in solitary confinement. They had never left their barren concrete cells and were starved of mental stimulus to occupy their curious minds.
On hearing of their plight, Wildwood immediately sprang into action. The charity launched an appeal to build a special quarantine enclosure at their woodland wildlife park and to fund the costly transportation of the bears to Kent. Wildwood’s members and supporters rose to the challenge and raised an astonishing £100,000 to save the bears.
Peter Smith, Wildwood’s CEO, who was at the rescue in Bulgaria said: “Seeing the bears in such terrible conditions was truly heart-breaking, but they have made amazing progress since coming to Wildwood and we are truly thrilled that they are now fit enough to be able to test out their new enclosure. We would like to thank everyone who has helped make this a reality; from our members and donors, to the teams of volunteers who came together to help complete their new woodland home.”
Now that the bears have completed their quarantine and health checks, they are finally ready to experience their amazing new 1.5 acre woodland home for the first time. After 8 months of dedicated care, each bear is being allowed limited excursions into the new enclosure to allow them to adjust to their new home one at a time.
The stunning new enclosure, which is one of the best of its kind in the UK, has been built using donations from Wildwood’s supporters. It has been specially designed to give the bears as natural a life as possible and to allow them to learn and display their wild behaviour as they play and explore; a vital step in their long-term rehabilitation after being denied such opportunities since birth. However the Wildwood team are under no illusions that this is just the first of many milestones for the bears and expect to have to continue to support them for rest of their lives, which could be a long as 35yrs.
Jon May, Wildwood’s Park Manager said: “We are thrilled that the bears are now starting to experience their new enclosure, and would like to thank everyone who donated to give them a new life, however we are still relying on donations for their ongoing care and long-term rehabilitation.”
Wildwood is therefore launching a renewed appeal for donations for their long-term care. After suffering such neglect, the animals still have a long way to go and may need expert care for their physical and mental wellbeing for years to come. It is vitally important that Wildwood is able to adapt and improve the bears’ enclosure as the animals develop both physically and mentally; for instance, installing climbing frames for when the bears are strong enough to climb successfully and providing ongoing mental stimuli to keep their minds active and engaged.
Visitors can see the bears as they start to enjoy their new enclosure for the first time at Wildwood.
To donate towards the long-term care of the bears please visit: http://www.wildwoodtrust.org/donate.html
To donate by phone call Wildwood on 01227 712 111
Wildwood celebrates the return of Ratty to Sevenoaks
Wildwood’s conservation team is celebrating the successful completion of an ambitious 3-year project to re-establish the water vole, Britain’s most threatened mammal, to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.
Immortalised as Ratty in Kenneth Graeme's the Wind in the Willows, water voles were once one of our most familiar mammals but their numbers have plummeted due to loss of habitat, unsuitable river management and predation by the North American Mink. This desperate situation has left the water vole vulnerable to extinction in many areas and conservation organisations such as Wildwood Trust are now desperately trying to save the species from disappearing altogether.
For this momentous project, Wildwood joined forces with Kent Wildlife Trust with the shared aim of re-establishing water voles on their old stomping ground of the River Darent, and to form a stronghold from which the species may eventually spread to populate the local area.
The project, funded by the Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust (ICET), was launched in 2011 when a team from Wildwood surveyed the site to assess its suitability for water voles. Unfortunately the habitat was found to be unsuitable and so Wildwood recommended a number of improvements, including land management methods and ways of monitoring and reducing the number of North American mink in the area. With the help of volunteers, Kent Wildlife Trust then undertook the laborious task of rejuvenating the site, whilst Wildwood concentrated on their long-term captive breeding programme in order to provide strong, healthy animals which would be suitable for release.
Sevenoaks Area Warden Paul Glanfield said, “From start to finish this project has been a real joint effort between KWT, Wildwood and ICET. I would especially like to thank all our hard working volunteer teams who have been involved in every aspect of the project.”
After 3 years of hard work the habitat was restored and Wildwood was then able to donate more than 50 water voles to establish a new population on the reserve. The animals have been introduced to the site via a method known as “soft-release” whereby they are placed into their new home in pens which they can return to for food and shelter until they acclimatise to their new surroundings. This gradual approach has been proven to give introduced animals the very best chance of succeeding in the wild and therefore establishing a thriving population.
Vicki Breakell, Wildwood’s Conservation Officer said, “We are thrilled to be able to work with Kent Wildlife Trust on this amazing project to restore water voles back to this area of Kent. Projects like this are at the very heart of Wildwood’s work as a conservation charity and we are delighted to be able to help in the fight to protect water voles for future generations.”
Rescued Bulgarian bears arrive at Wildwood
Wildwood is delighted to announce that the Kormisosh bears have arrived safe and well at the park after being rescued from Bulgaria.
To allow them time to settle in, the bears are not currently on public view. Only once we are satisfied that the bears are ready to be seen by the public will they be on display for visitors to view.
The bears arrived on Wednesday night after a 1,600 mile journey from the remote mountain region of Bulgaria where they had lived in appalling conditions for their entire lives. The rescue went well and the bears are in good health considering their background.
Peter Smith; Wildwood’s CEO, who was at the rescue in Bulgaria, said: “Seeing the bears in such terrible conditions with my own eyes really brought home just how important this project is. We have been touched by the amazing generosity of our donors, members and supporters and would like to thank them all; it is thanks to them that the bears are safely with us.”
But this is not the end of the story. In fact, the arrival of the bears at Wildwood is just the start of their journey to recovery which will require even more time, money and dedication to achieve.
Due to the extremely high costs of looking after animals such as bears, Wildwood has taken a staggered approach to their rescue and rehabilitation. After raising the initial £50,000 needed to rescue the animals and build their quarantine enclosure, the Trust now needs to raise even more money to give them the happy, healthy lives they so desperately need.
What next for the bears?
The bears will now be quarantined for four months in their quarantine enclosure. During this time Wildwood will need to raise the money to build their woodland enclosure and provide them with much-needed facilities for their rehabilitation after years of neglect.
We still have a long way to go…
Woodland Enclosure: The quarantine area is situated within the much larger woodland enclosure, which will be the bears’ eventual home. In this huge area the bears will be free to play and explore and to learn to display their natural behaviour after being denied such opportunities since birth. We still face the mammoth task of fencing this area and preparing the woodland to ensure it will be a suitable home for the bears.
Physical Rehabilitation: The bears have never experienced a natural environment and therefore do not know how to behave like bears. They have never been able to climb, swim or play which has left them weak and in need of physical exercise. We desperately need to raise money to provide them with essential features in their enclosure such as a large running water feature and climbing frames.
Enrichment Programmes: After living in such awful, barren conditions, the bears may be suffering with mental health problems or may be prone to stress. We need to ensure that their mental health is closely monitored and to provide activities to stimulate their curious minds. With your help we will provide specially designed enrichment programmes and tools which will keep the bears’ minds busy and engaged.
Urgent Healthcare: The bears will require a host of costly healthcare both on arrival at Wildwood and in the years to come. They will need full health-checks, vaccinations and worming after arrival and may need many years of veterinary care depending on their physical and mental condition. The bears will also require extensive dental repairs to rebuild their crumbling teeth and closely controlled diets to allow their digestive systems to adapt to new foods.
We would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has helped us to bring the bears to Wildwood, we could not have done it without your support and generosity. The bears are now safe, but we still need your help to give them the future they deserve.
Official opening of Viridor funded pathways project
An official opening ceremony has been held at Wildwood to mark the completion of the park’s newly renovated pathways.
The project was funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through the Landfill Communities Fund; and allowed Wildwood to renovate and repair the park’s woodland pathways to make Wildwood more accessible for visitors all year round.
Large areas of pathway were renovated including the path around the elk and red deer enclosures, the area next to the otter enclosure and the pathways close to the bison and lynx enclosures. The renovations will help Wildwood to withstand future adverse weather conditions and ensure that visitors can enjoy exploring the woodland in rain or shine.
Jon May, Wildwood’s Park General Manager, said ‘We are very grateful to Viridor Credits for this amazing funding. Now that the pathways are officially open we hope that people will be able to enjoy our woodland setting without worrying about the ground underfoot.
Wildwood launches urgent bear rescue appeal
Wildwood is launching its biggest charity appeal ever – to raise £50,000 to rescue two brown bears from horrendous living conditions in Bulgaria and give them to a new home within our ancient woodland.
This huge project is the largest and most ambitious ever undertaken by the Trust which needs to raise funds for specialist care and enrichment programmes to help the bears flourish and lead a full and interesting life after arriving at Wildwood.
The bears are kept in small, barren concrete pens in an abandoned bear breeding centre called Kormisosh, in Bulgaria. The bears used to be bred for the cruel practice of canned hunting, being released for trophy hunters to shoot. This was stopped by the Government but means the bears at Kormisosh where abandoned and are at present looked after by volunteers who do not have the ability to continue to care for them. The situation is getting desperate with little help for the bears as their pens are falling apart.
Peter Smith, Chief Executive said: ‘Wildwood desperately needs £50,000 to pay for a very large woodland enclosure and transport the bears safely to England. I am asking all our supporters to pledge their support and make a donation, large or small, to give these bears a chance of a decent life.’
The leading bear conservation and welfare charity ‘Alertis’ highlighted the plight of these bears. Alertis experts are leading this project and training Wildwood staff to give the bears the best life they can. Once sheltered in our wonderful Kentish woodland we can rehabilitate them so they can lead a rich and happy retirement full of enjoyment instead of sorrow.
Alertis commented: ‘We are looking forward to working with Wildwood to rescue these bears from their terrible life in Kormisosh and give them a new home in the woodland.’
The fundraising appeal launches at the beginning of the summer holidays and urges people to give whatever they can.
Peter added: ‘Every penny counts and there are so many ways you can get involved and help out. Over the summer holiday, visitors to Wildwood will be able to take part in our special fundraising games and activities taking place in the park. If you are able to give up some of your spare time we are desperately in need of volunteers to help us run the fundraising activities. You can also help by holding your own fundraising event to raise money for the bear appeal – do a sponsored challenge, hold a bake sale or host a fun evening in and don’t forget to spread the word! The more people that know about the bear appeal, and the plight of the Kormisosh bears, the better.’
The simplest way to support the appeal is with your mobile, text BEAR21 plus an amount between £1 and £10 (e.g. BEAR21 £5) to 70070. If you would like to give more than £5, you can you can also make a donation online by visiting https://mydonate.bt.com/events/bears, alternatively you can donate by phone 01227 712 111. £5 could help to buy bedding for the crates when transporting the bears to Wildwood, £50 could help towards the health checks and vet’s fees and £500 could help towards building their large woodland enclosure.
Supporters of the appeal will be able to follow progress of the bear appeal on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Please use the hashtag #savethebrownbears.
If you are interested in volunteering (over 18s only) or if you are interested in running a fundraising event please contact the Wildwood fundraising team on 01227 712 111. For further information about the appeal, opening times and admission prices, please visit www.wildwoodtrust.org.
*Donations will be deducted from your mobile phone account and cost £5 plus your standard network text message rate. Wildwood Trust will receive 100% of your donation. Always get the bill payers permission.
Wildwood releases rare hazel dormice to the wild
The Wildwood team is celebrating after successfully introducing captive-bred hazel dormice to an area of Nottinghamshire woodland as part of a continuing project to help protect the species from extinction.
Working alongside other conservation organisations including the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Paignton Zoo, Natural England and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust; Wildwood was on hand to assist in the release of 40 animals to a secret location.
This recent release is the latest in the scheme which was established in 1992 and aims to increase dormice numbers in areas of the UK where the species is in decline. It is hoped that this latest release group will eventually link up with another population released last year in a nearby area.
Once widespread throughout much of England, hazel dormouse numbers have steadily declined over the past 100years. Thanks to the continued threats of habitat loss and unsympathetic woodland management the species has become extinct across half of its former range.
Each year Wildwood supplies captive-bred dormice for the release programme and as studbook holder for the species selects and pairs up the animals for release, thus ensuring the strongest genetic mix for future generations.
To ensure the dormice are successful, the woodland is carefully managed by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust to ensure can provide suitable food and shelter, whilst the animals are introduced via a “soft-release” system. Initially they are housed in cages with adequate food and water before the cage door is opened after a few days. The cage is topped up with supplies allowing the dormice to come and go at will without having to fend for themselves immediately after release. This supports the dormice as they become integrated into the area and gives them the best possible start in their new woodland home.
Hazel Ryan, Wildwood’s Head of Conservation said “It’s wonderful to be involved once again in this amazing project. We hope that with continued releases and careful habitat management we can help to expand their range and bring hazel dormice back to areas where they once thrived.”
The team at Wildwood have been welcoming the parks newest arrivals; a delightful pair of European otters.
The new arrivals; a male called Sixpence and a female called Doris, have settled in extremely well and are now on display to visitors in their purpose-built enclosure.
Their arrival at Wildwood is a happy ending for the otters after they were both found orphaned and abandoned and in desperate need of rescue to ensure their survival.
They were originally taken in by New Forest Wildlife Park who are leading experts in the rescue, rehabilitation and re-release of European otters. The New Forest team worked tirelessly to treat and rehabilitate the pair for release back to the wild but sadly this wasn’t to be for Wildwood’s brave new arrivals. The team discovered that Sixpence couldn’t cope on his own in the wild and Doris’s fur wasn’t sufficiently waterproofed, leaving her at risk from hypothermia. As neither animal could be released back to the wild, Wildwood stepped in to give them a permanent home at our woodland wildlife park.
Jon May, Wildwood’s park manager said “We are delighted to be able to offer Doris and Sixpence a home at Wildwood. Otters are an iconic British animal that has faced the very real threat of extinction in recent times and we hope they will both delight and inspire our visitors about the story of British wildlife.”
As a conservation charity which is dedicated to educating people about British wildlife, otters are a particularly important species for Wildwood. After nearly being wiped out across the UK in the 1960’s their numbers started to slowly recover until they were found in every English county with the exception of Kent. Today otters have started to return to the county but their numbers remain very low and experts believe that it will take many more years before their population fully recovers in Kent.
Wildwood hopes that the new otters, in their new woodland home, will help to educate visitors about the continuing importance of ensuring that otters can truly call Kent home once more.
Wildwood is delighted to welcome The Mammal Society to the park for the launch of their new project: Mammal Watch South East (MaWSE).
This exciting new project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to engage the wider public in mammal monitoring and conservation using modern technology such as smartphones.
Launching on 17th May, Mammal Watch South East (MaWSE) aims to gather as much information as possible about mammals the South East in order to paint a more accurate picture of their distribution in a South East Mammal Atlas. And YOU can get involved!
Lots of ways to get involved with Mammal Watch South East:
Smartphone app: On 17th May the Mammal Society will launch the new MaWSE ‘Mammal Tracker’, a free app to allow anyone to identify and submit mammal records out in the field.
Website: The new MaWSE website will be packed with useful information on how to identify mammal species and links to allow users to network with others interested in mammals and mammal surveys.
Surveys: After launch, people will be able to take part in Mammal Watch surveys that have been designed with species experts.
Camera traps: Mammal Watch camera traps will be available for loan to schools or groups who want to discover which mammal species are living close-by.
of our members are invited to the launch of this eagerly
awaited project at Wildwood on Saturday 17th May from 10am – 5pm.
Events on the day will include:
We hope to see you there!
Free event* Saturday 17th May 10am – 5pm
*Please note that Wildwood membership or entry fees apply to attend this event.Click here for more info on Mammal Watch South East (MaWSE)
Wildwood is proud to announce yet another transfer of Konik horses, this time going to roam in Mid Wales.
The horses have gone to Wildernest; a green tourism and environmental education project run by husband & wife Hugh and Jude Crawford in the beautiful Aeron Valley, Wales. In their new home the horses will live wild and improve the wetland habitat through natural grazing.
This latest transfer, one of many carried out by Wildwood, is another triumph as we strive to improve conditions for wildlife throughout the UK through conservation grazing.
Konik horses are extremely hardy and live well on wetlands eating weeds, reeds and grass whilst boosting biodiversity through light grazing and natural fertilisation. This keeps the land open and encourages more plants, invertebrates and birds to settle in the area. Over the years, Wildwood has bred and distributed hundreds of Konik horses to similar habitats around the UK where they continue to improve conditions for wildlife in a natural and sustainable way.
Wildwood’s Chief Executive Peter Smith said “We are delighted to be working with the Wildernest project. The horses are the ideal conservation management tool and will boost the area’s biodiversity whilst providing a valuable resource for ‘green tourism’ and people learning about ecological restoration. We are sure that the horses will be very happy there and will do wonders for the habitat.”
Wildwood is celebrating after being granted desperately needed funding to renovate and repair the park’s woodland pathways that have been damaged by the appalling winter weather.
As a conservation charity, Wildwood is dedicated to educating people about British wildlife and wild spaces and uses its ancient woodland setting to achieve this goal, but working in the natural environment can be challenging; the heavy rain has resulted in many pathways around the park becoming severely waterlogged and muddy, making some areas almost unpassable without wellington boots.
But help is at hand and the project has received £7067 funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through the Landfill Communities Fund. This grant will enable Wildwood to repair the damaged areas and upgrade the paths around the woodland using recycled materials. The renovations will help Wildwood to withstand future adverse weather conditions and ensure that visitors can enjoy exploring the woodland all year round.
Jon May, Wildwood’s Park General Manager, said ‘We are very grateful to Viridor Credits for granting us funding to enable this vital project to go ahead, it will make an amazing difference to our visitor experience during the wet winter months’.
Work to repair the pathways will begin in the next couple of weeks, and will be carried out by the Wildwood Ranger team together with the help of volunteers from the local community.
Reindeer bring festive cheer at Wildwood
Staff at Wildwood, Kent’s unique British Wildlife park and conservation charity, are getting into the Christmas spirit with the arrival of two stunning reindeer.
The festive pair, a mother and daughter from the West Midlands Wildlife Park, are the latest additions to Wildwood’s extensive collection of native and once-native British Wildlife.
Peter Smith, Wildwood’s chief executive said “We are delighted to have reindeer at Wildwood; they are a fine example of a once-native animal that has been lost to the UK. We hope they will both delight our visitors and inspire them to help us in the fight to save our native wildlife.”
The mother is a four year old called Holly, whilst her daughter is yet to be named. Wildwood will be asking their supporters to choose a suitable name for the youngster, although given the yuletide theme, staff suspect that this may be a forgone conclusion!
Reindeer lived in the UK until around 8000 years ago before becoming extinct, most likely due to hunting pressure and climate change. Today the only wild reindeer in the UK are to be found in the Cairngorms, where a herd was re-introduced in the 1950’s. Globally, reindeer numbers have dropped nearly 60 percent in the last three decades due to climate change and habitat disturbance caused by humans.
Wildwood hopes that the new arrivals will not only spread some festive cheer with visitors this Christmas but will also act as a reminder of the importance of wildlife conservation.
Did you know?
Wildwood announces Pine Marten Appeal Grand Raffle!
Our Grand Christmas raffle will be drawn at our Festive Fun Night on Saturday, 14th December 2013 at 5pm and has fantastic prizes!
All profits go towards building new pine marten breeding enclosures at Wildwood.
Tickets are on sale now at £1 each (£5 a book) – Purchase from the Wildwood shop or call 01227 712 111.
If you can help by selling tickets to your friends, family or social group - please call 01227 712 111 for more details.
Adult keeper for a day experience
Child keeper for a day experience
Meet a pine marten experience
Meet a snake experience
Meet an owl experience
Meet a polecat experience
Framed wild animal photo – taken by our resident photographer
Ferry crossing with DFDS Seaways for a car and up to 4 passengers
A meal for 2 at Michael Caines Restaurant at the Abode, Canterbury (value £50)
Falconry Experience day with Falconry South East
Meal vouchers for any Wildwood restaurant (value £60)
Go-karting session at Buckmore Park (suitable for ages 16+)
A meal for 2 at Smugglers Retreat, Ramsgate (includes a bottle of wine)
Family ticket to Cinderella pantomime at Theatre Royal, Margate (29th December, 5.30pm)
Family day ticket to Leeds Castle
2 Odeon cinema tickets
4 tickets to Hever Castle
1 day ticket to Diggerland (+ entry discount for other group members)
2 hours paintballing at Quex Paintball for 5 people, includes 50 paintballs
Family Swim at Maidstone Leisure
Shellac manicure at Salon Chique
Hot stone massage at Salon Chique
Luxury gift set from Fenwick
15.6v drill from Wickes
Large Hornby Scalextric set
Wildwood Trust would like to thank all the above organisations for their generous donations to our raffle.
Sleepy dormice and secretive hedgehogs on display at Wildwood.
Wildwood is celebrating the long awaited opening of its new Nocturnal House; a specially designed centre that will allow visitors to see animals that would usually be sound asleep during opening hours.
The building, Funded by Biffa Award, is part of a larger project to expand Wildwood’s work to conserve the hazel dormouse and offers visitors a rare opportunity to observe hazel dormice and other nocturnal small mammals for the first time, and to increase awareness of the conservation threats faced by these animals and how we can address them.
Visitors will be able to see rare and endangered small mammals that are otherwise very difficult to see during daylight hours such as hazel dormice, hedgehogs, wood mice and edible dormice.
The Nocturnal House is Wildwood’s most ambitious project yet and the complex design of the building combined with the needs of the animals meant that the project had its fair share of setbacks. The building itself was completed at the end of 2012 but thanks to our unusually cold spring, it had to wait for its inhabitants to wake up from an extended hibernation period. Then the animals needed a period of adjustment in order to get used to being awake during the daytime as building features a unique lighting system that simulates daylight overnight and then fades to darkness during the days, but finally the building and animals are ready for visitors to the park.
Wildwood’s CEO Peter Smith said; “We are thrilled with the new Nocturnal House, and the team have persevered to get this complicated project up and running. It’s great for Wildwood, as although most people have heard of dormice, few people will ever see one. Now we can educate people about these beautiful creatures and why it is so vital that we save them from extinction”
Sally Barnes, of Wildwood’s Keeper team, who has been looking after the Nocturnal House said “The building is great, with spacious natural enclosures and the lighting system is working extremely well, we have already had many delighted customers who have seen their first ever dormouse, which is really exciting.”
The Biffa Award grant also included funded the building of new dormouse breeding enclosures to expand Wildwood’s capacity for breeding hazel dormice for reintroduction programmes. Over the course of the project 32 hazel dormice have been bred at the park, some of which will remain at Wildwood to boost the Trust’s captive breeding population at Wildwood, with the others being reintroduced to areas of the UK where they have become extinct in releases facilitated by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species.
The nocturnal house will also be used during Wildwood’s conservation training courses, such as dormouse ecology and conservation, to give people the opportunity to observe these creatures as they would be in the wild, and improve their skills in species identification.
New-born wildcat kitten offers hope for a species on the verge of extinction in the UK
Wildwood Keeper Sally Barns said:
“It been such a privilege to protect this precious wildcat kitten, to nurse such an amazing animal and have the honour to protect such a rare creature has been the high point of my career. The team have are working around the clock to ensure its survival and we are so proud that she is in excellent health.”
Peter Smith Wildwood Trust’s Chief Executive said:
“Wildwood Trust has been working in collaboration with scientists and wildlife experts to help understand the problems of wildcat extinction and have been campaigning for their protection. Working with geneticist Dr Paul O'Donoghue of The University of Chester, Wildwood has been assisting in developing a genetic test to identify pure bred wildcats.”
“If we are to rescue wildcats in the wild we must make a radical shift in land use in our wilderness and upland areas. Overgrazing by sheep and deer are the real cause of the loss of the Caledonian forest that is the main reason behind the wildcats’ demise. A radical shift in abandoning subsidies to agriculture, shifting taxation onto land values and a change to land ownership laws are desperately needed if we are to protect these animals. One of the best things we can do to protect wildcats is to re-introduce Lynx back to the UK, lynx will disperse the unnaturally high concentrations of deer held by shooting estates in Scotland and allow the natural regeneration of the Caledonian forest.”
Visitors to Wildwood can see the kitten’s parents, Carna, and ‘RJ’, but it will be a while before the new-born will be on show to the public. Once the kitten has been weaned she will be returned to her enclosure on public view in the park.
Baby beaver is just in time for new Welsh beaver release project
An adorable new-born baby beaver was shown to the public for the first time today at the Wildwood Trust, Kent’s unique British wildlife park & conservation charity.
The birth of the beaver kit, as they are known, is a momentous event for Wildwood as the cuddly little ball of fluff is set to join one of the biggest conservation projects in the UK.
The beaver will become part of a bold and innovative conservation programme which will see beaver reintroduced to a whole river system in Wales. This ground breaking conservation project is designed to protect and restore wetland habitats.
Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust, who first brought the European beaver into the UK in 2001, have pioneered the use of beaver as a wildlife conservation tool. The success of this project has inspired a number of other projects and in this latest project Wildwood will be working with the Welsh Wildlife Trusts on the biggest scheme yet to return this once native species to Britain.
The baby beaver’s parents were given to Wildwood Trust as gift by the German Government and they became famous across the UK as their journey to Wildwood was documented in a special two-part programme shown on BBC Countryfile.
Visitors to Wildwood can get the chance to see the new beaver for themselves along with the rest of our beaver family in our specially designed walk-in beaver lodge.
Wildwood’s dormice prepare to head out to the wild in Wildwood’s latest release programme
Whilst people in the UK are hiding under their duvets to escape the wintry weather, the sleepy dormice at the Wildwood Trust are being woken from their slumber for an important mission to help save their species from extinction.
The tiny creatures, all bred at Wildwood, are part of the Trust’s captive breeding programme designed to repopulate areas of the UK where dormice have become extinct.
Once woken and checked by the Wildwood Conservation team, the group of 11 young dormice will leave their Kent home and go to either Paignton Zoo or London Zoo (members of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group) for full health checks and be paired up with specially selected partners who will accompany them out to the wild.
The release, to be carried out at a secret location, is a joint venture between the Wildwood Trust, The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Paignton Zoo, The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Natural England. As the studbook holder (record keeper) for hazel dormice in the UK, Wildwood has a vital role in this project not only by breeding dormice for the release but also in allocating suitable partners for the dormice from other zoos.
Hazel Ryan, Wildwood’s chief conservation officer said, “We are very excited to be part of this project to reintroduce the Hazel Dormouse back to areas where they have become extinct. Wildwood is not only one of the leading dormouse breeders in the UK but is also an important centre for research into the behaviour and captive husbandry of the species.”
“The hazel dormouse is now classed as extremely vulnerable to extinction but through projects such as this, Wildwood hopes to tip the balance back in favour of the dormouse.”
Heritage Lottery Trainee positions available
Wildwood is now inviting new applications for our 2012/13 Skills for the Future training programme. After two hugely successful years which have seen trainees go on to start careers in wildlife, zoos and conservation we are ready to recruit our next batch of trainees to learn wildlife and conservation skills.
Tess Kingham, Wildwood’s Fundraising Manager said "It’s so exciting to be able to give people a chance to train in wildlife and conservation. In the current economic climate it can be difficult for people to get hands-on work experience, but thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund we can offer vital work experience and training for people to take on to their future careers”
The 3-year project is funded by a £150,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery fund under their Skills for the Future programme. The grant is funding the training of four trainees per year, over a period of three years, with each trainee receiving a training bursary of £10,000 for the year they train with us.
The scheme is great for zoos, wildlife trusts and conservation organisations such as The Wildwood Trust which require a wide range of skills from staff, from providing public education workshops to managing woodland and conservation areas and supporting endangered species captive breeding programmes. These skills are hard to obtain without on-the-job training, so the Skills for the Future programme has been developed to offer specialised training places. After this final year, Wildwood will have provided training for three trainee rangers, three trainee keepers, three conservation trainees, and three trainee education officers.
The project will allow Wildwood to train new people in wildlife and conservation skills which will provide a sustainable, representative workforce to protect the UK's native animals and habitats from further decline. On completion of their training the trainees will be able to take their skills on to further education or into employment.
Ranger trainees will learn coppicing and coppice management, woodland management, dead hedging, arboriculture, endangered species enclosure design and construction.
Conservation trainees will learn about conservation initiatives including endangered species release programmes, conservation grazing management, handling small animals and engaging the public in species recognition.
Keeper Trainees will learn endangered species enclosure design, animal enrichment, food preparation, diet and weight analysis, and animal husbandry.
Conservation Education trainees will learn how to develop and deliver workshops targeted at visiting schools and groups, and will develop skills including preparing educational resources, setting and monitoring traps, species recognition, and how to handle small animals for workshops.
The posts are for one year only and are aimed at those interested in following a career in conservation. The successful candidates will be expected to complete a portfolio of evidence of the skills they have learned. The training will provide the groundwork and experience required for those considering either further academic training (e.g. a conservation degree, or diploma) or developing their career by joining a zoo, wildlife trust or other conservation organisation.
Further details about the training positions and how to apply can be found on our jobs page: http://www.wildwoodtrust.org/recruitmentothervacancies.html
The deadline for applications is the 7th September 2012
Red squirrels born at Wildwood
Visitors to Wildwood are in luck this week with the first sightings of our baby red squirrels.
The four new babies are now venturing out of their nest boxes for the first time and are Wildwood's first brood this year. After maturing at the park they will be released as part of Wildwood's red squirrel conservation project aimed at preventing their nationwide extinction by re-introducing red squirrels back to the UK.
Once grown up the squirrels will be sent to a conservation site such as the island of Anglesey in Wales to live wild and free, helping form a buffer population to safeguard the species against national extinction.
Red squirrels went extinct in Kent in the 1960's and many of us can remember them from our childhood and many areas like Kent once teemed with these beautiful acrobats of the trees.
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust's Chief Executive said:
"Red squirrels are one of the most beautiful animals in the UK but sadly they face extinction unless urgent action is taken. But it's not yet too late. If we can help restore areas of woodland to a native state and make a concerted effort, we might just be able to tip the balance back in the red squirrel's favour."
"Wildwood Trust, as a charity, is committed to restoring our native and once native species and will continue to champion the restoration of natural woodlands."
Meet Freddy, our new badger!
Say hello to Freddy, our new badger. Freddy, a young male aged around 4 months was brought to Wildwood by the East Kent Badger Group after being found abandoned near Tenterden. Freddy was found as a young cub, suffering from anaemia and infested with ticks and fleas. Wildwood quickly had him treated and he made a full recovery but being so young he couldn’t be released back to the wild as he would not be able to look after himself.
Freddy is now being slowly introduced to the badger enclosure and has been taking regular walks around the park with his keeper, Gary. Gary said “Badgers are territorial so we are introducing him to the enclosure little by little so that Rodni, our female badger, can get used to him and doesn’t feel threatened by his arrival”. Freddy is now a little bigger than the picture above but is still a very lively young chap. Keep your eyes open for Freddy when you next visit the park!
Wildwood successfully breeds captive pine marten
Wildwood is celebrating a unique
achievement after successfully breeding a pine marten in captivity. The new arrival, thought to be the only captive pine marten to have been bred in the UK this year, is the second time Wildwood has bred pine martens and is a huge boost to Wildwood’s captive breeding programme.
This year's successful birth is a result of extensive research and trials by the Wildwood team into pine marten mating habits and how best to manage mating in captivity. As pine martens are a notoriously difficult species to keep on public display, never mind to breed, the park is justifiably proud of this achievement.
Pine martens are a very difficult animal to breed in captivity due to their territorial nature. In the wild pine martens are solitary and occupy large territories which they defend aggressively against other pine martens of either sex. The mating season is the only time that males and females will come together but being so territorial they will often attack a potential mate in order to defend their territory. Therefore the challenge for Wildwood was to bring our male and female together in a safe environment where mating could take place without the risk of a violent encounter.
In order to do this the Wildwood keeper team developed a special tunnel system in and around the animals’ enclosures, nicknamed “the tunnels of love”. The tunnels are used to allow the male marten to overlap into the female’s territory before mating to allow her to get used to the idea of him encroaching on her territory.
Wildwood’s head keeper, Paul Wirdnam said “As pine martens can be aggressive towards one another we have to ensure that the pair can come together to mate without risk of injury. Careful monitoring of the animals and timing is crucial to ensure the pair is likely to mate safely. We have allowed the animals to get close to each other through the fence but without contact so that they can see and smell each other and have allowed the male through the tunnels so that he can patrol through her enclosure. Only once we are satisfied that they are behaving as a compatible pair will we slowly allow the male to enter the female’s enclosure, with close monitoring from our staff. We also provide a safe haven for the female in case the male becomes aggressive.”
Thanks to the hard work of the team the pine martens bred safely and the new baby is now being spotted peeking out of its nest box and running around the enclosure.
"Pine martens lived throughout the UK until they were trapped, poisoned and shot by gamekeepers in the 19th and 20th century” " commented Peter Smith, Chief Executive of Wildwood “We a committed to restoring the pine marten to its former homes across the UK and hope that this new baby will one day be part of a larger scheme to reintroduce pine martens to the South east of England”
Baby beavers born at Wildwood
Wildwood is celebrating the birth of three adorable beaver kits. The new arrivals, born on 5th May, are set to help with projects to restore this remarkable mammal back to our riverbanks. The beaver are a part of a bold and innovative conservation programme, designed to protect and restore our wetland habitats.
Wildwood Trust have helped pioneer the use of beaver as a wildlife conservation tool. The success of this project has inspired a number of other projects in Gloucestershire and in Scotland.
Last month Wildwood Trust’s members and staff celebrated a momentous victory in their efforts to re-establish beaver to the UK when The Scottish Government scrapped plans to kill over 100 beavers living wild & free near Perth in Scotland.
Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said
“It is our fondest wish that these adorable beavers can be legally reintroduced to British wetlands to breathe life back into our riverbanks and streams. Beavers are a hugely important animal in helping restore the British countryside as they are a 'keystone' species, and their marvellous management of riverbanks helps create a home for a huge range of other wildlife.”
“Since we hunted beavers to extinction in the UK about 400 years ago our rivers and streams have been much the poorer. Riverbank animals like otters, water voles, dragonflies and kingfishers have all suffered in their absence.”
“Beavers will help humans too as they create wetlands that act as giant sponges that help to retain and purify water, prevent pollution, reduce flooding and help bring down the cost of our water bills. A study in Germany estimated that every beaver was worth about £2,500 in reduced water bills and benefits to the people who lived nearby them.”
The kits are now in the beaver lodge at the park; with their parents who were were originally given to Wildwood Trust as a gift from the German Government. Their journey to Wildwood was documented in a BBC Television Countryfile special, which you can watch in the enclosure.
Rare Albino squirrel discovered at Wildwood
Wildwood is already home to some of our most spectacular native wildlife, but we are now home to a particularly rare specimen, a beautiful wild albino squirrel.
The pure white squirrel is in actual fact a common grey but his unusual colour makes him quite rare and easy to spot in the woodlands. There have already been several sightings around the parks’ wild boar and wild horse enclosures.
Albino squirrels are a rare oddity of nature, with the condition being thought by wildlife experts to affect just one in 100,000 animals.
This is compounded by their lack of camouflage which makes them stand out so they are easy prey. Sadly, many albino squirrels are taken by predators at an early age, giving them less chance to breed.
Albinism is caused by a rare genetic mutation which limits the amount of a pigment called melanin that the body produces. Animals with albinism are born with little or no pigmentation in their fur, skin or eyes, resulting in very pale or pure white fur and often distinctive pink eyes. Interestingly, Wildwood is already home to pure black squirrels, which are caused by melanism - the opposite of albinism.
2 new little owls at Wildwood
Wildwood has welcomed it’s newest animals, a pair of young little owls.
Little owls are Britain’s smallest owl and at just over 20cm in length, are only half the size of a tawny owl, our most familiar species.
The owls, a brother and sister, were found in a workshop and were the only surviving pair of their brood after their mother had sadly died. They were rescued by the owner of the workshop and brought to Wildwood where the keeper team have been taking care of them to build up their strength. The owls are in excellent health are now on public display, but won’t be able to go back to the wild as after being hand-reared they won’t be able to fend for themselves.
The pair, now around 14 weeks old, have been named Tip-Ex and Bostik, after the Wildwood keepers had to mark one of the owl’s claws with a spot of Tip-Ex in order to tell them apart. They are both doing very well and are settling into their enclosure, where visitors can see them as they practice flying from perch to perch.
Head Keeper Paul Wirdnam said “We are really pleased with how the owls are settling in, it’s hard to believe that they are almost fully grown as they are such small birds, but that’s what makes them special.”
Say hello to Rodni, our new baby badger
Wildwood is proud to introduce our newest addition to the park, Rodni the baby badger.
Rodni, who got her name after being found abandoned in Rodmersham, nr Sittingbourne, was brought to Wildwood by the East Kent Badger Group in April.
Before being officially re-homed at Wildwood, Rodni underwent a series of medical checks to confirm that she was healthy enough to join Wildwood’s existing clan. During this time Rodni lived with Wildwood keeper Karen Price who enjoyed looking after her at her home.
“Rodni is quite boisterous as you would expect from a young badger, unfortunately after being abandoned she doesn’t have the skills to go back to the wild so we have been getting her used to being around people.”
Now that Rodni is at Wildwood she is currently living part-time in the badger enclosure until she is used to the environment and is able to hold her own with the other adult badgers.
Karen said “As Rodni is a lot smaller than our other badgers we need to be sure that she will be able to look after herself so we are introducing her slowly to the enclosure and the other badgers. Once she is a little larger and at home with the clan then she will live with them full time.”
Wildwood receives funding for new wetland wildlife project
Wildwood is celebrating a generous donation of £21,000 towards a new wetland wildlife discovery centre at the park.
The funds have been donated by the W.G. Harvey Discretionary Trust, a charitable trust dedicated to the prevention of cruelty to animals and the preservation of wild animal and bird life.
The donation will help the Wildwood
Trust create a new area at the park which
will be centred around a new otter enclosure, with a water shrew
vole viewing area and simple aquariums for British aquatic creatures.
will be used to educate our 100,000 plus visitors a year about the
live in British wetland habitats, to help protect them in the wild and
encourage their re-population of our rivers.
It has been much published in recent months that whilst otter numbers have bounced back across many areas of the UK, they are still to make a recovery in Kent. A recent survey by The Environment Agency has revealed that otters are now found everywhere except Kent.
As a conservation charity, Wildwood is dedicated to the study of threatened British Wildlife and promoting awareness and education through allowing people to see our native animals in as natural habitat as possible.
Visitors will be able to view into the otter holt and the nest areas of the water shrew and water vole, and see the animals swimming in a near natural enclosure.
The otter enclosure will be the central feature, and will have a hospital area to keep otters separate should they need vet treatment, or when new otters arrive at Wildwood. The main enclosure will have a filtered pond and a large otter den, all constructed in natural woodland. The otter den will have special chambers with one-way glass, to assist behavioural studies without disturbing the otters, aiding research and giving our visitors the chance to see and learn about these beautiful and elusive creatures.
Peter Smith, Chief Executive of Wildwood said “We are extremely pleased to receive these vital funds that will allow us to highlight the plight of the otter and help us in our campaign to make our rivers a safe place that will once again harbour our wetland wildlife.”
Wildwood gets wild horses ready for move to Scotland
The team at Wildwood have been busy moving some of the charity’s wild horses from their homes in Dover to the Wildwood Wildlife Park near Canterbury in readiness for them moving to a new home in Scotland. The horses are being transferred to the RSPB nature reserve at the Loch of Strathberg where they will live wild to improve the wetland habitat through natural grazing.
In total 8 Konik foals have been transported from sites at Hospital Down and Western Heights near Dover. Visitors can see the foals at Wildwood for the next few weeks before they are moved to their new home in Scotland.
A team from Wildwood went to Dover to move the horses and to check the health of the rest of the wild herd. Head Keeper Paul Wirdnam said “Konik horses are much tougher than domestic horses and are perfectly suited to living wild. They require very little human intervention but this is the ideal opportunity for us to give the herd a general check-up and ensure that they are all happy and healthy.”
As a conservation charity, The Wildwood Trust is committed to improving conditions for wildlife throughout the UK. The Wildwood Trust's vision is to bring back our true 'wildwood' by restoring Britain's land to its natural state through conservation grazing by large wild herbivores that restore natural ecological processes to help Britain team with wildlife once more.
Konik horses are the closest living relative of the extinct Tarpan, the wild forest horse that roamed Britain in prehistoric times. They are hardy animals that live well on wetlands eating weeds, reeds and grass. They help to boost biodiversity through light grazing and natural fertilisation which keeps the land open and encourages a wider variety of plants, birds and invertebrates to settle in the area.
Wildwood’s Chief Executive Peter Smith said “We are delighted to be working with the RSPB to send these beautiful animals to the Loch of Strathberg . They are the ideal conservation management tool and will boost the area’s biodiversity”
The Konik foals are currently at Wildwood and can be seen by visitors until they depart for Scotland. Wild horses are just one of the huge range of British animals that can be seen at the Wildwood Wildlife Park near Canterbury. For more information visit our website at www.wildwoodtrust.org or telephone 0871 7820081.
bison is the largest
terrestrial mammal ever to live in
and were native throughout
keeper, Paul Wirdnam, who has several years experience of
looking after bison said “it’s fantastic to
have these magnificent creatures at Wildwood. Many people don’t realise that
animals of this size used to live in the
Bison are the largest animals ever to be kept at Wildwood and at up to 2m tall and weighing up to 1000kg; their arrival has posed some challenges for the keeper and ranger teams.
Keeper Paul said “Despite their large size, bison are very agile and can be quite wilful animals, so we have had to specially design their enclosure to give them plenty of space and a natural habitat whilst allowing safe access for staff and a good viewing area for visitors”.
The specially designed paddock and log-cabin style enclosure has been built by the Wildwood ranger team and volunteers to allow visitors to see these amazing creatures in a natural setting.
Bison are just one of the huge range of British animals that can be seen at Wildwood; the ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife[ Back to Top ]