Ok, so most people that know me, know I am sort of animal mad, wildlife photography is where I’d love to specialise in. I thought I would get that out of the way, as to pre-warn everybody that as the heading suggests, it’s been a very exciting time for me and at my local wildlife park, Marwell.
Firstly I must say a HUGE thank you to my fiancée for putting up with my photography madness so far this year and my daughter for dragging her everywhere and to some extent, constantly going on about this.
So ..... several month ago Marwell Wildlife Park announced their snow leopards had finally mated and that their litter was due around the beginning of June 2011. Subsequent to this the new cubs were reared by their mother and kept inside for 12 weeks, until they had their jabs and were deemed safe.
August 25th was their first release date into their new environment.
As soon as I’d heard I knew I/we had to get over there to see them. Rather excitedly we planned a day out for the Saturday and rushed to their enclosure to see them. We met up with several fellow photographers from the Marwell Photographic Group who had been there since 8.30am (before general public were let in) and they’d said there had been no sighting! Neither had there been a sighting throughout the entire Friday. We waited for a while and decided it best to walk around the park, see the other animals and come back every now and then for an update. We did this until about 4pm where I was quite happy I’d seen everything and wanted to spend the next few hours waiting by the snow leopard enclosure. Luckily as time passed, there was a buzz of excitement on one side of the enclosure where they could see a small white face appearing from within the dark black entrance. Then several moments later, a head appeared, then a body, white and fluffy, with an expression of pure innocence and wonder. It was amazing sight to see, all that waiting was more than worth it.
Below here is the first photograph I captured on that Saturday the 27th August 2011
|Is it safe?|
Now, me being me, at first I was over the moon, and couldn’t believe our luck that one cub had decided to venture out without his mothers approval. Then it started to niggle at me, that really, one isn’t enough, I want more, I wanted to see them all ... and not just at the door but outside playing (I don’t ask much). I made a point that day that I wasn’t happy getting a photograph of them, from such a distance you couldn’t see detail (unless you have a huge zoom) or photographing them through the wires so again the images were distracted and unclear.
On the Sunday we had a family hike planned, which didn’t turn out quite as planned so I mentioned perhaps we should go back to Marwell and try again. We arrived at 2pm and went straight up to the enclosure, again it was reported that there had been no sighting of the cubs. I told my fiancée and daughter to go enjoy the rest of the zoo while I waited and I’d text them if anything happened.
What you’ll now see is exactly what happened several hours later, after most people had given up and gone home, a few of us remained and I can only express my joy in sharing the wonders that Marwell do as a conservation park. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.
|Cub on the loose!|
|I'm ready for my Cute shot|
|I'm still a little unsure about this|
|Where'd everybody go!|
|Easy does it ... easy|
|err which way was it?|
|Up to mischief|
|One brave little cub|
|I'm not always cute, I'm a big fierce snow leopard|
Did YOU Know!
Snow leopards have small ears and a thick dense coat with a soft woolly undercoat to help keep their body temperature regulated in the extreme cold. They have large feet to aid at distributing their weight when walking on snow. Their tail can be up to 1m in length which helps for balance and is used as a draught excluder when wrapped around their body to protect from the harsh winters.
Snow leopards are not white! Their coats range from white, yellow, grey, mottled with black spots and rosettes which act as perfect camouflage against the mountain terrain.
They are an endangered species, despite all the charity work and conservation work that we do.