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Zoo Diary: Become an Animal Detective

on 10th February, 2022

One of the most common questions at the Lake District Wildlife Park is:

“What is making that amazing noise?”

The usual answer is “Oh that is Nobby, the Lar Gibbon”. However sometimes the answer is “That it is our Laughing Kookaburras, Oats and Raisin.” One of great things that animals do, is make us stop what we are doing, look and listen. After we have listened for a while, we try and work out where the sound is coming from. On closer inspection, we might see some movement, a flash of colour or a clue such as a feather. Finally, we are then rewarded with seeing the actual animal. Without even knowing it, we have become an Animal Detective!

Last week Richmond Hill Primary School visited the Park and as always it was great to hear the excitement from a group of school children. We love this energy and enthusiasm, and staff don’t discourage it. However, one thing Keepers encourage all visitors including children to do is to “stop, look and listen” and to take some time to look closely at the animals.

When the school visited last week, the Park’s Education Officer Lucy showed them how they could be Animal Detectives and first stop was the Meerkats. She pointed out the dark circles around a Meerkat’s eyes which are thought to act as sunglasses. This protects their eyes from the harsh Kalahari Desert (and Cumbrian!) sun. The children noticed their long and sharp claws which are excellent for digging. Watching the mob of Meerkats for a while they also noticed that they took it in turns to do different jobs, such as sentry duty.

One of the great things about animals is how diverse and different they are. During an educational visit, children are encouraged to take part in interactive tasks that demonstrate this. The tasks include working out matching different body parts and features to the correct animal such as “Who’s Beak?”, “Who’s Foot?”, “Who’s Eye?” and “Who’s Ear”. However, the favourite every time without a doubt is “Who’s Bottom?”. Despite the giggles this activity creates, by looking at different bottoms, it is amazing what can be learnt: Not only has a Zebra got a hairy tail used as a fly swat, it has a stripy bottom to confuse flies. An otter has a bottom covered in thick waterproof fur, with a strong tail used for propulsion for fast swimming and also as a rudder for slow swimming.

During half term the Park will be continuing the “Become and Animal Detective” theme. There will be an interactive trail, where participants can have a go at working out from a close-up picture which animal they think it is. There will also sessions lead by Lucy where visitors can join in some fun activities and by using clues and artefacts, they can delve deeper into the wonderful world of animals. It is the Park’s ethos to encourage people to be enthused about the wonders of the natural world. It is hoped that the more people that connect with animals the more they will support the conservation of animals in the wild. To find out more about our half term events, please visit our website and facebook page.

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