Our main encounter animals that come with us on shows and talks. Each of them have their own history, however, none have been caight from the wild and are all captive bred.
Dawn and Dusk
Barn Owls are one of our most popular native birds, but many of their extraordinary adaptions are completely unknown to the majority of people. This pair demonstrate each one, their asymmetrical ears for directional hearing, their large, static eyes for night vision, their ability to turn their head completely around or fly silently, and even their fine, whisker like bristles around their beak to enable them to sense objects that are too close to see clearly. They also helps us to explain why, due to their specialised lifestyle, they are so vulnerable to things such as extreme weather, traffic and habitat loss.
Corn Snakes are the most commonly kept pet snake in the world, but many of their owners fail to realise what is involved in caring for them properly, and how little they get in return, as reptiles are solitary animals, any relationship with them is completely one sided. Many people quickly become bored with them and consequently it is rare for them to live their entire life with the same owner. Fanta is on at least his third home with us, but despite this has a calm, gentle nature and is a perfect introduction to snakes during our encounters.
Mexican Black Kingsnakes are an interesting species showing evolution in action, being a fully melanistic race. Most Kingsnakes have various camouflaging patterns of brown, yellow, black and white, but the Mexican sub species are entirely black, allowing them to absorb the sun's rays and warm up faster, therefore becoming active sooner, than their reptile prey. Kingsnakes are well known for often having a temperamental attitude, but Shadow is the exception to this rule and is a fantastic addition to our team.
Suto the Sulcata Tortoise is always a popular feature of our encounters. Sulcatas are the third largest species of tortoise in the world, though Suto still has a little growing to do yet. Her shell is slightly pyramided, a deformity caused by poor housing or diet when she was young, so is another useful demonstration of the importance of research when keeping exotic pets. Tortoises are ancient animals, potentially living to 200 years old, and the family have been in existence for around 220 million years. Interestingly they are one of the few animals that have remained virtually unchanged in that time, having simply achieved a highly successful design early on. Suto also demonstrates the role of training in animal management, being trained to follow a target in exchange for food, which will allow us to move her more easily when she is fully grown.
Hugin the Raven was born in captivity, but unfortunately was bought as a young chick by someone that had no idea how to care for him properly. He was raised on a completely inadequate diet, stunting his growth, kept in an aviary that was far to small and bare for such an active, intelligent bird. His wings were clipped so severely that it destroyed his confidence. Wing clipping can be used in certain circumstances to limit (not prevent) flight, but in this case was done completely inappropriately and has had serious results. After he was rescued Hugin spent 6 months living in our living room to restore his trust in people as, being hand reared, he did not relate to other birds, but had become afraid of people too. During this time the living room and all its contents were destroyed, but his confidence returned, and he now enjoys the freedom of the property. Hugin, named after one of the Norse god Odin's two raven messengers, enjoys participating in the encounters where he demonstrates an intelligence higher that any other bird in the world, and provides plenty of entertainment by rarely behaving himself for the duration of the talk!
Bearded Dragons, like Corn Snakes, are extremely popular as pets, however their care, particularly their diet, can be complicated and expensive to cater for properly, so many end up in very poor health. Ember was re-homed due to her previous owner no longer having the time or space for her, however she is one of the lucky few that came to us in perfect health. Her role during the encounters is to allow people to meet a calm, laid back lizard and learn that if they wish to keep an animal like this as a pet then a great deal of research and preparation is needed, as pet shops do not always give reliable enough information.
Quito our 8ft Boa Constrictor is our most experienced animal, having started her career with us in 2002 at 4 months old. She has met literally thousands of people in that time, helping many to get over serious phobias of snakes with her calm, gentle temperament. During our talks she demonstrates how to safely handle large snakes and, boas being a primitive family of snakes, has a key role in our evolution discussions due to the presence of her spurs, the remains of her hind legs retained from when snakes evolved from lizards.