eXtensions - Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (5): Linton Zoo
By Graham K. Rogers
While on a break in Britain, a spent a day at the Linton Zoo conservation project which gave me the opportunity to spend time with an old friend and to take a good selection of photographs of some of the animals in the program.
I was in the UK for just over a week visting the family. As well as travelling around making full use of my cameras, I was also able to make contact with a friend from my days in Bedford who is now part-owner of a small farm in Norfolk. With the distance between his home and mine, he suggested we meet up about halfway and, rather than a congested Cambridge, we arranged to meet at Linton Zoo, just on the border of Cambridge and Essex.
This was the day after my trip to the railway museums in Didcot and Buckinghamshire and I was becoming used to driving on British roads again, although with the restrictions everywhere - apparently heavily enforced - this is frustrating on some roads. I had been keeping to country lanes where a little flamboyance was possible.
I arrived at Linton early to find the gates still shut. I drove past but wondered if this were a security measure. Eventually I found a turning spot and headed back. My supposition was wrong: I had another 10 minutes to wait for opening time. I eventually drove in and waited. My friend was a little late owing to roadworks. After 20 years, it was easy to forgive.
We began with a chat and some coffee: not the best I had tasted. It was hard to find a decent cup of coffee in some places in the UK, although lunches in Caffè Nero in Milton Keynes were fair: nothing of that quality here. After an extended chat we headed out to the pens where Malcolm (friend) explained that this was a conservation project. I remembered the visit to Chaiyaphum in Thailand in March 2015, where I was able to take a good photograph of a female tiger.
Chaiyapum tiger and Linton lion
Even though the tiger was in a pen, I was able to take photographs which appeared to make the fence invisible: she was far back in the pen; I backed away from the fence; and focussing on the tiger reduced the visibility of the fencing. I was able to use the same technique at Linton Zoo, starting with the lions. A couple of other male and female lions were in the large enclosure. I was able to take a number of shots, but several of the images were culled because of the fence.
While still looking at the big cats, a young keeper walked past and mentioned he was about to feed the tapirs. Malcolm, who had seen them before, told me that Linton Zoo had had considerable success with tapirs.
While feeding the three tapirs the keeper gave a knowledgable presentation about the animals: where they come from, diet and the breeding project history. This was the first of these presentations, and indicated how connected the staff were to the animals they care for. I was happy to give a donation to the zoo, impressed by what I had heard and by the devotion to the tapirs that was shown.
There were a number of other animals in pens, although the fencing sometimes made it impossible for me to take suitable shots when the animals were close to the wire.
Lunch was an unusual affair and the cafe would not be graded highly on any guide for its service, as pleasant as the staff were. I rated the tea just slightly higher than the coffee. Why do English people - a country synonymous with tea - insist on making the beverage with tea bags? Nonetheless, the "Winter Warmer" I ate - soup with a toasted sandwich - was filling and delicious, with the honesty of the home-made soup putting it on a level with the chips I tried at Didcot last year: high praise indeed.
Service skills reared their head at the end when, continuing our conversation in an otherwise empty room, we were told that a member of staff was showing a milk snake. These are brightly coloured and look as if they should be venomous (not poisonous, I was corrected).
Like the talk on the tapirs, the handler was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He allowed me and others to touch the skin, but not the head. The snake would be defensive and perhaps bite. They do have teeth. While my stepfather handled a Burmese python in Thailand a few years ago, I had never done this, particularly as the snakes I saw up close in my garden were venomous. They would raise the head if I came too close, giving clear warning, as many animales do: they are not agressive unless they feel at risk.
The skin was dry to the touch and, with the scales, felt a little bumpy. It was not unpleasant. Unlike worms, caterpillars and millipedes I feel comfortable with snakes, up to a point. That was reinforced when the next helper had a black insect that looked very much like a millipede. I donated to the snake man, but made my excuses to the nice young lady with the other thing.
Linton Zoon is not large when compared with other zoos. The breeding programs are clearly valuable. An important factor here was the connection that the staff have with the animals, although this reduces their connection with the wild. It was worth the trip of course to see my old friend, and the animals were a plus as well.
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (1): Return to UK
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (2): The Dance of the Red Kites
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (3): Bells in the Streets
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (4): Live Railway Museum Visits
Travels with Cameras, a Mac and an iPhone (6): Walks in the Country; Apple Watch 4; a Delayed Flight Home<>/a>
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)