Sunday, September 25, 2016

Another Sunday, Another Trip To Whipsnade

The sun was out (well, rather weakly, nevertheless) and Carol was in definite need of some sort of relief from work. It seems unfair that you work all week and then, at the weekend she ends up marking books and planning lessons. She starts work at least 7.15 each morning and doesn't end her day until 4.45 (most days, a good deal later, having to sort out other people's problems etc.) A wander around Whipsnade was most definitely in order. 

As we drove down the A5, Watling Street, towards Dunstable, we encountered heavy traffic. It was nose-to-tail northbound and as we got to the roadworks at the chalk hills entering Dunstable, it was very slow going. The zoo opens at 10 and it was around 10.15 when we got to that point in our journey. 

On entering the zoo (having Carol's Z.S.L. Fellowship means we not only get free entry but also an entry free with our car. At least £75 saved for the two of  us plus the car.) we found the place almost deserted. I suppose on a Sunday, and during term-time, it's not as busy as the holiday time as well as the fact that the weather wasn't particularly brilliant. There were periods of sunshine, but it was definitely clouding over and threatening rain at any moment. 

We drove around the perimeter of the zoo as we usually do. This allows us to see which animals are out and about. There are some animals which we hardly ever see, depending on the weather. The sloth bears are not always to be seen, but they were today. Rather difficult to photograph, unfortunately, because of the chain-link fence which is in the way. They are a particular favourite of ours. Several years ago I gave Carol this lovely cushion which has a bear on it (she loves teddy bears and has quite a collection, which sits on the top of our IKEA bookshelf.) This cushion-bear has a distinctly similar look to the sloth bears.

We continued to drive around and eventually got to the brown bear's enclosure (more or less exactly opposite the sloth bears enclosure.) It was getting very busy as more people began to arrive.) The bears seemed to be causing something of a stir, and Carol said it might be something to do with the bear, Baloo, in the new Disney film of "Jungle Book" (the computer animated re-make which we saw on DVD a few weeks ago and enjoyed enormously. It's very well done.) The character in the film is very similar to the brown bears at Whipsnade. Congratulations to Disney for having him walk on all fours as they do in real life and not as he is portrayed in the original 1967 animated film where he is presented walking on two feet, like a human. It least they've managed to make the character more realistic (although having him talk is certainly not realistic!)

On the many occasions we've visited Whipsnade, we have never seen the wolverines. They are in an enclosure opposite the brown bears. There was quite a  crowd gathered near the enclosure, and for the first time, we actually managed to see two of them! They seem extremely elusive. They appear to spend a good deal of their time hiding. No doubt they can see us, but we can't see them. So I managed to take one or two photographs of one. Then it climbed a tree and we could hardly see it at all!



The elusive wolverine. The first time we've actually seen one of these creatures.





We really wanted to see the elephants (definitely our all time favourite animals at any zoo but particularly at Whipsnade. They are currently building a brand new elephant house and when you visit at the moment you have to take into account the building work that is going on (this is due to open in early 2017.) A rather incongruous fence has been put up as a safety precaution and it wasn't clear where the elephants were when we arrived. Not in the fenced enclosure to the left, but, on walking around we discovered the herd in the paddock the other side. Some of the zoo staff were in the paddock, some of them drove up in a mini tractor which had a trailer on the back which contained green branches covered in leaves which they began to distribute to two piles on the ground. The elephants began to pick up some of the branches, one, in particular, began flaying the ground with some of the more tender branches before eating. There are two young elephants in the herd, one a good deal older and another, which was born at the time of the Queen's 90th birthday earlier in the year (and called Elizabeth as a result.) It's interesting to see how the older elephants look after the young members of the herd and walk along with the little one in between them. At one point the baby began to roll around on the ground and began playing with a few twigs. It was most amusing to watch. We were so glad we arrived when we did because we've never seen the elephants being fed before.

We went to the restaurant near the tiger enclosure to have chocolate cake and coffee. A good selection to choose from and the coffee was better than average.

We walked over the rhino enclosure and were surprised to see one of the large rhinos at very close quarters. We took some excellent photographs. We then drove around to the opposite side of the zoo to visit the shops. If I have a complaint it's that there aren't enough items for adults. All very nice to have so much for children (and we've spotted something for George, my grandson, who has his first birthday in a month's time.) And when we'd finished browsing (without actually buying anything.) we drove back to Milton Keynes. The traffic was building up as we came out of Dunstable on the A5 and it was backed up towards  Hockliffe. By the time we got through the traffic lights the queueing had petered out. We had the car radio on and discovered that the traffic situation was probably caused because a bridge on the M1 had been demolished.
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