Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Whipsnade - parading elephants and galloping wild boar

Whipsnade was developed by ZSL as London Zoo became less and less suitable for some of its larger animals. The Asian elephants, for example, were decamped to the rolling hillsides of Whipsnade, where they have thrived.
One of the highlights of my September trip to the park was the elephant parade, which saw several adults, and one adorable baby, marching back to their overnight shelter, with the tail in front held in their trunks. It was very Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’.
Whipsnade is great for large mammals – there’s lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos and giraffes to name a few – but I really enjoy its native woodland species, such as lynx, boar and brown bears, which I like to imagine roaming Britain’s ancient forests.
The gorgeous European lynx was the proud mother of two new cubs, which fresh from the disappointment of the snow leopard babies (or lack of) at Marwell, it was a real pleasure to see lazing on a log outside.
Bigger babies could be seen further along in the wild boar pen, where a host of lively youngsters galloped around in circles, stomping the earth into thick mud, before collapsing exhausted.
It was really lovely to visit the zoo with my boyfriend, dad and step-mother for company, as I’ve been visiting a lot of them solo, and having company makes it much more fun, not to mention making me feel less of a weirdo!

Whipsnade covers a huge area, which can be driven around (at some cost) or walked without too much difficulty. As the weather held out for us it was really quite pleasant turning each bend and waiting to see which creatures might be behind it.
For lunch we tucked into the biggest piles of fish and chips I’ve ever seen, before waddling off to see the penguins (also having fish for lunch) and to witness the park’s stunning views over the hillsides.
We’d arrived later in the day than most people, which was both good and bad. The ride on the adorable miniature steam train was slightly anticlimactic as most of the animals had gone to bed for the night (although a field full of wild lapwing cheered us up), but it did me we had a private audience with an extremely noisy gang of sealions, two of whom treated us to a most elaborate swimming display.
While I’ll always be fond of London Zoo, for its history and convenience, I’m glad that the larger animals are well catered for at Whipsnade. My only criticism might be the lack of shelter en route for any visitors not wanting to stump up and take their car around, as I imagine a rainy visit isn’t nearly as much fun.

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