Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Shepreth - curious meerkats and a lemur on my head

I have always had a soft spot for Shepreth. Small but perfectly formed, it has a surprising number of animals on site.
I was there last Friday to write a 'Love Your Zoo Week' article for the Cambridge News, and was lucky enough to get up close and personal (with a particular skunk, very personal) with various creatures.
I started by cuddling Pepe (as in Le Pew, although actually he didn't smell at all) who dozed in my arms, before trying to lick my lipbalm (skunks prefer Carmex)
Reluctantly I handed him back to the park's director, and was allowed in with a boisterous group of five meerkats. I settled down in the sand and handed them some live locusts (I was very brave). They crunched away delightedly, and didn't seem to mind me being there. In fact, one of them felt so comfortable he tried to climb my back. Perhaps I would have made a good look out post?

It was then on to see the cusimanses (mongoose-type, brown-striped critters) and their less welcome neighbours the grumpy porcupine family, who keeper Grace kept well away from me. They were a little bit reluctant, we suspect they weren't terribly hungry, but soon enough an intrepid individual climbed on my lap to take some raw mince from a bowl, which he dragged away, never taking his beady eyes off me.
Later it was back to see my old friends the ringtailed lemurs (who I have been fortunate enough to meet and greet several times in the past). Interestingly, the social structure has completely changed since I was last there, so now the formerly bullied long-tails are now top dogs (as it were) and lord it over the short-tails. I'm not quite sure why that is. Anyway I did my best to make sure everyone got their fair share of banana.

I then got to cuddle with a less furry individual - a 10 foot python, who was very heavy and rather stunning. My final 'treat' was putting my hand in a tank of piranhas. The problem is, once someone has dared me to do something, I generally will... But actually they were very well mannered, hardly even glancing up at the phantom hand floating above them.
The keepers (and animals) were so welcoming, I wish I could go back right now!

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