Sunday, 4 November 2012

A tall visitor

As usual, today started with cleaning out the cubs and surrounding area - including scooping and bagging giraffe and zebra doings. Nothing, however, is quite as pungent as the smell of lion droppings, something which I am certain will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Fortunately we had some time to play with the cubs before the real work started. It was the first time the cubs had properly licked me, and I was surprised at how rough their tongues were.

Again i was on Touch-a-cub duty this morning, this time with Shandor, whose family started the park. Although only 17 years old, Shandor has a wealth of knowledge about the park and the animals. He is one of few people who can go into the enclosures with the more dangerous animals, such as leopards and hyenas.

From watching the cubs walk, I have realised that the Disney animators responsible for The Lion King were very accurate in their portrayal of lion cubs, right down to the slight bum wiggle! The cubs tend to sleep for the hottest part of the day (today was the hottest day so far), often piled on top of each other, despite having freedom of the whole enclosure.

My second shift of the day was selling giraffe food to customers, allowing them to go up to the feeding platform and feed the two fully grown giraffes. Sitting in the giraffe hut, volunteers have a great view for watching giraffes, zebras and ostriches, plus the one meerkat who always escapes the enclosure.

After all the hard graft watching giraffes and playing with lion cubs, I returned to the volunteer camp for a quiet afternoon, and was sitting on the bench outside the tent, reading Stealing Water and enjoying the view, when a giraffe appeared in my peripheral vision, this time inside the boundary fence. Naturally I reached for the camera, and sat very still as he nonchalantly strolled up to me, before bending down to take a closer look, leaving me feeling like Sophie from the BFG with a gentle giant stopping curiously over me. He stood and pondered over me for a few seconds, and I was able to stroke his face, before he returned to his full height and took an invested interest in my book and other items spread out on the picnic table next to me, as well as my clothes which were drying on the railings, and I had to move quickly to save them before he had a cheeky chew on my socks.

Items safely tucked away in my tent, he lost interest in me but hung around for a few minutes, trampling between the tents until he had eaten all of the leaves within his lengthy grasp, before heading for the exit. Unfortunately he got stuck for a few minutes by the exit, before sussing out how to lift the gate post and duck underneath. No matter how much I hate being short, I'm glad I'm not tall enough to have that problem!

Giraffe in camp!
I headed back up to the cub enclosure, but got distracted en-route by the bedtime routine of Mara, the six-month-old giraffe. The keepers feed her 6-7 litres of milk per day, on top of leaves and giraffe food from the customers. After feeding time, it was bedtime, which involves putting Mara into her house for the night, but ever the reluctant youngster, she refused to go.

The keepers have a well-rehearsed routine whereby they muzzle her, one pulls from the front with a lead, and the other pushes her rear end. Eventually, after much kicking on Mara's part, she was safely tucked up in bed for the night.

How many people does it take to put a giraffe to bed?

We went in to play with the cubs for about an hour, as they are more lively in the evening, when the temperature is cooler and there are fewer customers. Unfortunately Chloe was not in a good mood (still) and after a few near misses she pounced on Liza, one of the Brazilian volunteers. Although Liza was not badly hurt, it was a shock for us all, and we beat a hasty retreat.

Previous entry ("Cheetah walk")
Next entry ("Chasing meerkats")

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