January 2017 Newsletter

Friday 3rd February 2017 at 4:24pm by Rachel Franklin

Welcome to our new look DZP monthly newsletter. Big thank you to Plymouth City College for sponsoring us!


CEO’s Update:

The park is looking beautiful in the crisp and clear January sunshine, and there are so many good things to report. The brave couple who booked a wedding here on the 6th were rewarded with great weather, right up until just after the ceremony finished. Those once in a lifetime pictures of people in glamorous dresses posing next to tigers were eventually curtailed by goose-bumps.  

The animal collection has been greatly enhanced by the arrival of two young cheetahs from Germany. It was one of the smoothest arrivals of animals I have witnessed here in ten years, which was a great team effort. And watching them take their first tentative steps into their newly landscaped enclosure to muted gasps of “Wow” from the public was very gratifying. They seem to have settled well, despite all their neighbours being bigger cats than them. They’ve seen the lions, and spend a lot of time looking in their direction, ignoring Vlad the tiger who is in plain sight. I feel another study coming on.

Speaking of which, the research department did some excellent presentations in the DIAS pod to show us what they’ve been up to so far this academic year. I loved the two-way interactions with Mike and Tim chipping in and asking questions, particularly when Mike probed the team who spent 35 hours watching the lynxes (that is the correct plural; I checked) before and after the introduction of the female, Willow. It’s nice to see that the eyes, ears and minds of the researchers are feeding into the daily activities of the zoo. It was marred for me only slightly when I realised that these are second year undergraduates, and that I did my second year presentations 25 years ago, a few years before any of these lovely people were born.

The zoo is, above all, an object lesson in the Cycle of Life.




This month the research department updated the zoo on some of the studies carried out since September.

A psychologist, an Animal Behaviour and Welfare student, and an environmental scientist have been watching Flaviu, our errant lynx, and his new mate, Willow, adjust to their new lives together. Three thousand five hundred individual readings of behaviour have been taken over 35 hours of observation, and Mike the Curator immediately wanted to know what they had found. Before getting too excited, the observations often showed that they were lying down ignoring each other for long periods. These are cats, after all. But the rare observations of them together at the fence, and the distinct lack of aggression shown have been duly noted and will inform the timing of getting them together, as soon as some contraception has been organised.  

The effects of the mine blasts on the Iberian wolves was extremely well documented by Josh, a biological scientist. His data enables him to state categorically, for instance, that a blast shifting 11267 cubic metres of rock into the air in early November resulted in aggressive behaviour directed towards the Omega wolf, and he has a video of teeth clacking in the air to prove it. The wolves are the nearest animals to the mine, and his information will be presented to the ironically named Wolf Minerals at a public meeting on the 26th Jan.  

A team of psychologists, zoologists and a conservation biologists presented the designs for a study on the impact of pony grazing on Dartmoor, which is backed by the Dartmoor Heritage Pony Trust and natural England. 

And five scientists from psychology, zoology and conservation biology presented an excellent soon-to-be-published paper on sentry duty differences between hand reared and parent reared meerkats. In a normal social group, the ever-vigilant little mongooses (it’s right; I checked) spend on average 22 minutes per half hour on lookout. With no-one to show them how or why, the hand reared group spent only three minutes on this vital task, showing that many hand reared animals cannot hope to survive in the wild. And that basically, you should listen to your mum.


Animal Acquisitions:


With several outbreaks of the H5N8 bird flu confirmed in the UK, DEFRA have instructed all collections holding birds to implement strict biosecurity measures to prevent the outbreak spreading. As a result we have been forced to keep the new Guinea Fowl shut in the African Paddock overflow shed since their arrival. This restriction was due to be lifted on January 6th, but then another case was confirmed, and the restriction has now been extended to 28th February! Other preventative measures have been the closure of the Walk Through enclosure, and the installation of disinfectant foot baths outside all areas containing birds. These will also remain active until 28th February.


Our new Senior Keeper, Rutger de Lange, has started and seems to be settling in well. He has a lot of experience, and I am sure he will be a great asset to the Animal Department.


On January 11th we received 2 new Cheetah from Landau Zoo in Germany. Tibo & Baro, have settled in well and have been exploring their new enclosure. It’s good to see Cheetah back at Dartmoor Zoo.


On Thursday 19th January we said goodbye to our “mini” Meerkats. They have gone to Bicton College, where they will be teaching the students all about exotic animal husbandry techniques. We still have the Meerkat group at the front of the Restaurant, so those who like watching animals on sentry duty can still get their fix!


Discovery and Learning Team:


We have some lovely new and exciting additions to our animal collection in Discovery and Learning. Pascal, our adorable Panther Chameleon has settled in well and is slowly getting used to zoo antics and people.

Our new Discovery and Learning centre is looking fabulous with the bird skeletons donated from Plymouth Museum all hanging up nicely from the ceiling. Big thanks to Plymouth Museum for their donation of the skeletons and the lovely display cases we now have around the zoo.

We attended a successful careers day at Bicton College recently giving students an idea of how to get a career in the industry and we are currently busy planning our romantically themed Valentine half term week ‘Animal Love Stories’!

After February half term we will be moving the Close Encounters sessions officially to the Attenborough room and gradually moving the rest of the animals over from Darwin. After that Darwin will be used primarily as an offshow area for our animals where they can relax in peace and quiet and escape from public view.


Restaurant & Events News:


In late 2016 our venue has been fortunate enough to become recommended by Bridebook, the UK’s Number One Wedding Planning website, which is a big achievement having only had our licence since 2011.

Our most recent wedding, Friday 06-Jan, saw Jake and Kristy tie the knot. This lovely couple opted to be filmed as part of a new reality TV programme for channel Five Star, Bring on the Brides (Working title). Should you wish to explore our venue for your wedding or someone that you know, we will be hosting two wedding fairs this year. The first on the 11-June, with the winter wedding fair being held on the 01-Oct.  If you would like to find out further information regarding the wedding fairs please contact Diverse Events (diverse-events.com).

Furthermore, we have devised a list of evening events we currently have planned for 2017 that are very exciting and include open air cinema dates and Dartmoor Zoo’s 10th birthday celebrations.

For updates on events please see our social media pages and our website: www.dartmoorzoo.org.uk.



For 5 weeks now we have been focused on the arrival of the Cheetah…


Both house and enclosure required attention.


Outside we have improved the containment fencing and renovated some of the electric fencing, whilst inside we have totally rewired the house: including a completely new and upgraded 3-phase electrical supply. The new supply cable weighed more than half a tonne and cost over two thousand pounds, but it will allow us to develop a whole corner of Dartmoor Zoo in the future.


Furthermore our neighbouring farmer very kindly donated his time and use of his 8-tonne digger, meaning we have re-landscaped the enclosure profile to include a running track!


The next month some other features of the zoo will be getting an overhaul: fencing and paths, carpark and off-show areas will all receive some mid-winter attention.

Keep warm my robins – the snow drops are coming up! J


Key Dates for the Diary…


Calling all teachers!

During British Science Week we are hosting our first STEM Career’s Day 14th March 2017