On Sunday I visited Doug Richardson of the Highland Wildlife Park to talk cats and their conservation. Two blog posts arising from our lengthy discussions will be published here soon. While there, I naturally also spent time with the fascinating animals held at the park. The originality of this collection is that all of the animals kept hail from taiga, tundra or moorland habitats, be they latitudinally cold or altitudinally. Put simply, the animals at the Highland Wildlife Park look at home in this patch of Cairngorm wet grass and plantation. Doug also makes the important point that the park's carbon footprint must be among the lowest of European zoos': most of the animals require only field shelters as they are inherently adapted to the bleak winter of the Scottish Highlands.
Personally I was happy to see old friends from the wild cold places I visit: arctic foxes which I have seen in Greenland, Svalbard and Siberia; polar bears and barnacle geese from Svalbard; southern vicuñas from the Reserva Eduardo Avaroa where I used to ring flamingos with Omar Rocha and his team in southern Bolivia; and yaks from the high Himalayas of Ladakh. At their feet were plants familiar to me from Norfolk - heath dog violets, wood anemones and others - but in a remarkably different environment.
|Heath dog violet at the Highland Wildlife Park|
|Southern vicuña, looking much as I used to see them in the days|
when I ringed James's flamingos in southern Bolivia
|Domestic yak, looking convincingly wild|
|My friend Denzel, in the Rumbak Valley, Ladakh,|
not looking remotely wild
|Mishmi takin, late of the parish, on Doug Richardson's|
|Also, tellingly, on Doug's wall|