Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Turkeys are for life not just for Christmas …

This is a short story of three Isle of Wight Turkeys destined for the dinner table …

We recently heard about three white Turkeys left over after the Christmas season … apparently still destined to land up in someone’s freezer or to be sold by the farmer to a local market. Of course, once we’d heard about them, and knowing what beguiling creatures they are, we couldn’t just leave them to their tragic fate …. so our livestock family expanded ever so slightly when we offered the three gobblers a new home yesterday!

Having never worked with Turkeys before the first thing that struck me was their large, sturdy size – compared with our other species of poultry. The other notable characteristic is their slow, placid, docile nature! They seemed quite unperturbed by their re-location and were quite calm when touched.

Despite the name, Turkeys apparently have no direct connection with the country of Turkey – they’re native to North America – although have been bred in many countries around the world for centuries. Unfortunately for Turkeys, industrialized farming methods have made it very cheap to raise these birds – each one producing a large amount of meat. The female domesticated Turkey is known as a Hen, the chick as a Poult and the male as a Stag (in the UK and Europe) or as a Tom (in the United States).

Our newcomers are only a few months old and haven’t yet grown their fleshy protuberances! The one at the top of the beak is called the ‘snood’ and the one attached to the underside of the beak is the ‘wattle’. We don’t yet know the sex of our gentle birds but would be more than happy if they were to surprise us by hatching out some Poults in due course! Apparently the average lifespan of a domesticated turkey is around ten years – so all being well they’ll be with us for some time to come. All being well they’ll be here waiting for our spring Park visitors to arrive!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Latest update from Keeper Charlotte volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa

Feeding the Wild at SANCCOB
(The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds)

It has been another busy week at SANCCOB with more new arrivals, including a stunning juvenile gannet.

I've had some great practice and hands on experience with the birds the last few days, and was even promoted to be a supervisor of one of the pens!

I am getting much better and quicker with handling, feeding and tubing- all of which comes down to time and practice.

Feeding the birds at Sanccob is much more difficult than at Seaview as unfortunately we can't just throw the fish to them! For any of you who have visited the park, you will know how easily our penguins and pelicans take their food from us! At SANCCOB however, the birds are wild so most of them will not free feed. This means that the majority need to be force fed, which involves restraining them, then opening their beaks (using a glove for protection!) and pushing the fish carefully down their throats until they swallow it. Although it doesn't look very nice for the birds, it is incredibly important that it is done as they won't actually feed on their own and would therefore starve. We also have to tube feed them with waters, darrows (an energy/electrolyte solution), formula and various medicines.

Some of the penguins and are easier than others to feed and tube. The adults have incredibly powerful beaks and are very strong which makes restraining them difficult, whilst the smaller and younger birds are weaker but have tiny beaks. One of the most difficult birds are the cormorants as their throats are very narrow. You have to be very careful when feeding or tubing the gannets as although their throats are larger, their beaks are serrated and incredible powerful. It has also been noted in their behaviour that they can often strike at the face or eyes when feeling threatened, which makes things more complicated as you have to keep your head fairly close to the beak and throat to make sure the tubing is going correctly!

Despite the difficulties, it is an amazing experience working with these birds, knowing that our efforts are going towards their recovery and hopefully- their future release back to the wild!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Otters in need of Trout!!


Can anyone help?? 

Our usual delivery of trout from the mainland didn’t arrive this month …. does anyone have a small supply of trout (about 12-15 would do the trick) to tide our three Asian Short-Clawed Otters over until the next delivery comes in from Poole?  The three Otter brothers would be ever so grateful!  The fish they usually eat are Rainbow Trout that are not perfectly shaped and therefore have been rejected from the human wholesale/retail trade - but are perfect for our boys!  

If anyone can assist please email:  Thank you so much!


Up on his haunches (JB) Jan 2010 (resized) DSC_0008 Two of the boys looking intently

ASC Otter July 19 (JB) DSC_0939  The three Otter brothers 6 Sept 2011 DSC_0190

Images: Jules Brittan, General Manager, Seaview Wildlife Encounter

Dippy dozing in winter sunshine!


Below are a couple of close-up images of Dippy, the head Humboldt Penguin at Seaview Wildlife, taken earlier today. What a remarkable, lovable, one-in-a-zillion character he is! 


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Photos: Jules Brittan, General Manager, Seaview Wildlife Encounter, Isle of Wight

First Wallaby Joey of 2012!

Today’s gorgeous winter sunshine has warmed every one of us here at the Park – the livestock and the members of the animal care team! Not only that, but the sun’s rays have encouraged a couple of our tiny Wallaby Joeys to peek out from their mothers’ pouches – announcing their arrival in the world and staking their claim as the newest members of our well-known and well-loved Wallaby mob!

By the time the Park re-opens to the public on 1st April this year the young Joeys will be ready to greet our guests, hopping in and out of the pouches, ready to be stroked and photographed! As regular visitors will know everyone can get up-close to our gentle Wallabies – stroke them and help to feed them – and it’s all included in our standard entrance cost.

Don’t miss a visit to Seaview Wildlife Encounter’s original Wallaby Walkabout this spring or summer – it’s the Isle of Wight’s closest Wallaby encounter – where the Bennett’s Wallabies roam and mingle amongst our visitors! Looking forward to seeing you – spring’s not that far away now!

In winter sun Feb 2012 DSC_0276 In winter sun Feb 2012

Two of our female Bennett’s Wallabies dozing in the warmth of the midday sunshine earlier today

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The images above show the mother Wallaby tending to her young Joey whilst it peeks out of her pouch. What a privilege to witness such tender moments as these – and to be able to share the images with you our Blog readers!

Images: Jules Brittan, G.M., Seaview Wildlife Encounter.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Keeper Charlotte's SANCCOB Photo Update

It has been a busy week at SANCCOB with lots of new arrivals and the release of thirteen penguins. The ICU is getting very full with the new birds, including some very cute penguin chicks! There is also a Cape Gannet, Giant Petral and two young heartlib gull chicks. I managed to take some photos this week of the centre and some of the birds, here are a few....

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Moon rising over the Solent

What a beautiful evening it was – freezing cold, but clear and bright, with the moon casting her icy light all around us. I took this photo to share with our Blog readers – a magical view from the Park out across the Solent. The Owls and Kookaburras loved the fact that I was out with my camera; their calls started gently but as more of our feathered friends joined the evening choir it ended up as a raucous crescendo!


Friday, 3 February 2012

The Return Of The Penguins!

Keeper Charlotte's latest update from her Conservation Project in Cape Town, South Africa

This has been an exciting week at SANCCOB for me because on Tuesday I was able to go on a release!

We drove the two hours to Boulders Beach with myself and three other volunteers sat on boxes in the back of a van with nine penguins.

Once we arrived we were met by some of the local park rangers who were also going to be releasing some birds.

We took the penguins in their boxes down towards the sea, which became quite a challenge once the tourists who were visiting the area there realised what we were carrying!

Eventually we managed to get down to the waters edge, on a secluded part of the beach. This area is off limits to tourists which made it perfect for the release.

We saw kelp gulls, cormorants, oyster catchers and of course lots of wild African penguins! This was my first sight of them in their natural habitat and it was amazing to see them walking and swimming around freely.

We took it in turns to open our boxes and release the penguins. Some of them raced out as quick as possible, whilst others needed a little encouragement!

It was one of the best experiences I have ever had, knowing that our hard work has helped these birds recover and given them a second chance. It definitely makes all the hours of cleaning, scrubbing and bites worth it!

Thursday, 2 February 2012


I braved the icy winds earlier this morning armed with my camera to make the most of the soft winter sunlight. The objective was to share a few Otter moments with you! When it’s this cold (-4 degrees C overnight with a wind chill factor of many degrees lower) it’s quite challenging for the Keepers to ensure all the animals have access to un-iced water! After the Otters’ drinking water was broken up this morning they not only enjoyed a drink but made a game of the experience by breaking off off lumps of ice and playing with them! Asian Short-Clawed Otters have very dexterous front paws that closely resemble tiny hands. In the wild they use these to forage for food in shallow water – mainly molluscs and crustaceans. In captivity they are often seen playing with stones – holding a small round pebble between their front paws, tucking it under their arm and running around with it, then rolling it across their tummies whilst lying upside down on the grass – a real test of skill when seen through human eyes, but an obvious source of relaxation and enjoyment for our Otters!

Close-up at water bowl DSC_0179 Showing off winter coat DSC_0199

Profile of Otter's head DSC_0183

Jules Brittan - G.M. Seaview Wildlife

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Leaf Cutting Ants need extra boost in cold weather

As some Blog-followers and friends of the Park might remember, we introduced in a small colony of Leaf Cutting Ants to our Collection in 2009. The Ants were brought in from the Amazon in South America and so are really precious! One of the key husbandry priorities is to maintain warm, humid conditions for the ants to at all times – we aim for temperatures of between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade.

To-date we’ve succeeded in this and our colony has really thrived and multiplied. However, when the outside temperature drops to –4 degrees centigrade (and the wind chill factor makes it feel even colder) it’s quite a challenge! The Ants are based in our Discovery Zone/Education Centre which isn’t centrally heated. We therefore rely on overhead heat lamps and water heaters to produce the necessary warmth.

The last two mornings the temperature readings in the Ant enclosure were lower than the recommended levels, so we’ve stepped in with some interim solutions until additional heating can be installed. Hopefully the colony are ensuring the Queen Ant is warm and comfortable – she is critical to their survival – she can live for up to 15 years, but once she dies the whole colony dies with her.

1st - Nimmo D - Leaf cutter ants 2011 resized