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Thursday, April 13, 2017

900th Post: Elephants at Whipsnade

We've been waiting for two new exhibits to open at Whipsnade Zoo. They have been building the new Elephant Care building for about a year. Whenever we've visited over that period we've seen the work going on. Also, the brand new African Hunting Dog's enclosure near where the wolves used to be. This section opened on 1st April and then on Tuesday H.M. Queen visited to open the elephant's centre. There was a mention of this on Facebook, via the Z.S.L. website and their Facebook page and on both local television news programmes, Anglia's About Anglia and BBC1's 'Look East' did items, even though not very long. So on Wednesday we decided to visit.

The journey down the A5 was fine until we reached the outskirts of Dunstable. There was quite a queue of traffic and it moved exceptionally slowly until we reached the set of traffic lights and had to make a right turn towards Dunstable Downs. A rather frustrating journey and it wasn't too clear what was causing such long delays.

We arrived at Whipsnade at around 11, having been shopping at Aldi earlier. The weather has been fine and sunny, but it was actually quite cold, so we had to wear jackets. It can be a good deal colder up on the Downs where Whipsnade is situated. It was probably ideal weather for visiting the zoo because a lot of the animals were more active than usual. If it's too hot they tend to hide away in the shade. The place was very busy, with long queues at the entrance. One advantage of Carol being a Fellow of Z.S.L. is that we not only don't have to pay for entrance, but we can drive in (also without paying) which means we can drive around within the park, thereby reducing the amount of walking we would otherwise have to do as the place is quite large and the enclosures which house the animals are a fair distance apart.

We couldn't park the car where we usually park, near the bears. We drove round the zoo until we got to the area near the tigers. A lot of the paths around that area had been closed off with metal fences. I presume they had been left over from the previous day when the Queen had been to open the Elephant Care Centre. Regardless of whether these fences were in place, people were ignoring them and walking around them. We went towards the elephant enclosures and found a great many people milling around. Whipsnade had been used a few months ago for the BBC1 television programme " The Big Painting Challenge" which was shown on Sunday evenings. The contestants had to do paintings of the flamingos as well as the elephants and we knew, from watching the show, whereabout they had set things up. It's strange how so many of the places we've been to over the years get shown on television. Sky did a similar show on their Arts channel and the locations for their landscape shows were done at a lot of National Trust properties we've been to, such as Stowe Landscape Gardens which is a round a 20-minute drive away from Milton Keynes. Well, if nothing else, these programmes have put these places on the map and no doubt have encouraged people to visit them. No doubt the fact that Her Majesty coming to Whipsnade to open the Elephant Care Centre prompted many of today's visitors to visit the zoo. We then walked over towards the new African Hunting Dogs enclosure which was opened at the beginning of April. It looks somewhat sparce and obviously needs more landscaping. I think they introduced the pack of dogs to get them accustomed to their new home before making to many changes. There is a viewing platform which allows you to see the dogs without having too much obstruction by fencing or screening. We learned that the Elephant Centre wasn't open until 1 o'clock which we didn't realise when we came into the zoo.

It always amuses us to see people who insist on taking photographs of themselves rather than the animals. This obsession with taking selfies is crazy. Why do people spend so much time and money visiting these places, and then end up taking photographs of each other and not the place they are visiting? We've seen this so many times at either the zoos or National Trust properties and elsewhere. Just idiotic, to say the least. Just so they can post them on such social media sites as Facebook.

We needed some sort of refreshment so went to the Wild Bite Café. We were more than a little shocked to find it so busy. And noisy, with children screaming and one annoying child creating such a loud noise I felt like leaving immediately. Carol ordered our coffee and sandwiches and I had to find a table to sit at. Not easy. It really seems that they ought to sort this out, build new facilities or at least provide more space for seating. I would imagine the place was busy because of the fact it's the Easter Holidays and people seeing the Queen on television opening the elephant house.

We had a drive around the perimeter of the zoo, visiting the shop at the entrance and having an ice-cream and then left for home. No doubt we'll be returning later in the year.

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