(The) Mee family and other animals...

How is it that time off work just goes in a second? Whoosh!! Ah well, at least in the millisecond that it was I managed to wiggle in my birthday pressie. You might remember that I said that I had been given an experience day for my birthday, but I was keeping it under my hat until I had done it

What my lovely family all clubbed together to buy me was the chance to be a Zookeeper for a day, or more specifically a big cat keeper. A few years ago now, after watching We Bought a Zoo I did the usual googling and became enthralled by the story of the Mee family, who decided to buy a zoo. I also saw that they did Big Cat Keeper days, and I added it to the wishlist of things I wanted to do, and promptly let it fall to the back of my mind. Until, that is, a voucher showed up on my 30th.

Although the movie was set in California, the real zoo is Dartmoor Zoological Park just outside Plymouth, so off down to Devon we trundled, eagerly anticipating getting up close and personal with some big kitties.

Without a doubt its something I will never forget.

All the animals are locked into their "houses" before we go into the enclosure and clean up.
Jasiri was eager for us to stop coo-ing and get on with feeding him.

Its really hard to put into words how truly awesome it was to be up close and personal with the beautiful beasts. Jasiri scared me, but in an exhilarating way. He was just so big, and at the time we went to feed him I think we were the first people he had seen that day (it was an early start - before the park opened) and we was excited. Josie was so diddy for a lioness, yet so agile, climbing tree's for her meat (lovingly hidden there by Mr O ), yet the whoomp when she dropped back to the ground was a reminded of just how powerful she is.

I *might* have hidden some food in the cab of the truck so I could get this shot of Josie

Vladimir and Stripe, the sibling tigers, were feeling rather lazy and lethargic - having had a big meal the day before. As well as scattering the food around the enclosures, they are fed every other day to properly reflect how they would eat in the wild. Vlad certainly didn't want to do much but warm up up the sun with his belly still full from what was (based on what we fed Jasiri) a faily big chunk of pony - bones and all. There were times he looked over at us and would expose his belly just like a pet wanting a belly rub. Sadly, or rather luckily for my health, he was the other side of the fence. at that point. Stripe was more accommodating, and I would swear she actually posed for me a couple of times. She's a bit of a flirt for the cameras.

Stripe and Vladimir, don't you just want to rub that fluffy belly?? 

The only other "big cats" was Ceeta, the Cheetah who, after being fed, seemed to just sit on her mound and keep an eye on all the goings on, and the two Lynx's, who refused to play ball. But we had other animals to feed.

Ceeta keeping a lazy eye on what everyone is doing

There was the tame fox Bramble, who we were told was better behaved than most dogs according to the vet. We went in with her without putting her in her house first she was so well behaved, just sniffed me and licked my trousers a bit. We also fed the lovely bears Fudge and Hayley. Fudge, the lighter one, is an old lady and I really could half see her in a blue rinse and doddering along. Hayley was full of Sass and tried to con us into giving her sweets so we could get her into her house so we could clean her enclosure and leave food. I couldn't get a photo because of the angle, but I wont ever forget the sight of her, head half in the house, arms crossed and hanging over the threshold - almost as if shes saying "make it worth my while keeper lady....."

Fudge and Hayley

The stand out, unexpected stars were the otters. I love otters anyway, but Jonsi and little Atti (short for Attitude). Atti was hand-reared and because of that she squeaks. She squeaks and chirps so much and so loudly she if officially the loudest otter in the UK. She didn't even stop as she was eating, it was constant. I love her, I want to keep her.

Jonsi and Atti were very happy to see us coming with their breakfast
There's hope that Atti and Jonsi will soon have little Otters - I think not only for conservation efforts,
 but also to see if the kits are as loud as their mum. Either way, looks like love to us! 

Aside from the keeping being AMAZING, I also really loved the feel of the Zoo. It was small, yes, but all the animals had large homes, and I got the impression of a large family - and I don't just mean the one that saved the Zoo from closure when they bought it. The whole place just had a warm feeling, a love radiating and it just made the whole place feel all the nicer. I picked up Benjamin Mee's book in the gift shop, devoured it in a day, and it made me love the place a little more. If you are in the area, as I intend to be again,  pop in and say hi to Fudge and Atti. If you feel like it, you could even go say hi to Vlad and Josie - I whole heartedly recommend it.

1 comment

  1. I really like your shared collection of photographs that are fascinating for me and grab my attention to go there. I am a big fan of animals even have three pets. I am adventurous by nature and that's why I often visit such kind of places to see the wildlife. These days I am going to enjoy cruise miami to key west and would like to see the aquatic life of this region.