For my sister’s 9th birthday we went to Port Lympne safari park. We went round the Kent countryside in a big safari truck with a canvas roof. What was especially cool was that none of the animals were fenced in! Giraffes meandered up to check us out, we came within metres of a sunbathing rhinoceros, huge cow like things with big horns walked by in their herds and we even saw a zebra, camouflaged in the trees.
This is the description of a mother gibbon and its baby.
Its tiny little hands clung to its Mother’s soft grey fur. She bent down to look at it and gently picked it up and placed it on the wire fence, some 10 metres above the ground. The baby squealed and hung on, looking over its shoulder at its Mother, who was dancing around on a branch. “Come on!” she seemed to be calling “Come on, little one.” It scurried up and down the fence, looking down and holding tightly with its long, spindly arms. The Mum ran back and forth on two legs, clapping her hands and nodding her head.
Still the baby was too scared. The Mum ran back, scooped it up and swung from branch to branch with one arm, holding the baby under the other.
We also saw a Mother gorilla and it’s young, that was so magical.
The enclosure echoed with the sounds of grunts and shouts and all sorts of gorilla noises. They jumped and played and fought high up above us in the swings and ropes that hung from the ceiling. They were the teenagers. The big silver males, sat around on platforms that were just above the ground, eating fruit and patrolling up and down.
A tunnel led from one part of the enclosure to another and a nervous gorilla head appeared in it. Cautiously, the Mother shuffled out, cradling her baby in her arms, it was so small, its body basically fitted in its Mother’s big, black hand, whilst its head lolled to one side. Carefully, she put it down on a pile of straw and bounded towards us, pulling the baby, on its cushion, with her. It sat on its straw for a while, looking around sleepily with wide eyes. The Mother seemed to be showing it off. She sat nearby, watching it and us closely.
After a while she picked it up and carried it back through the tunnel.
At four ‘o’ clock we were lucky enough to see the tapirs being fed. They are strange, big animals with a long nose and short hair. They are related to the domestic horse and also the rhino. What is funny about them is that they are exactly half black and half, with a very distinctive line between the two. They come from South and Central America and also South East Asia. They live in swamps and grasslands and sometimes forests and mountains. They are extremely good swimmers and enjoy water.
When they are babies they are dotted with unusual streaky, white markings, but they grow out of them.
We also saw meerkats, we got to see them really close. One standing stiff as a post, on look out duty. The others all scurrying around in the mud and it was funny because, however many people stared and looked at the lookout, he never moved a muscle! They are very cute, but also highly intelligent.
The animals were all lovely to see, some of them aweing and others adorable, but many of these creatures are either critically endangered or even extinct in the wild. A place like Port Lympne is doing essential work to keep these animals alive and raise awareness. They breed a lot of animals in a plight to keep their numbers up and their population going. They also release animals into the wild in the hope that they will establish themselves and thrive.
Port Lympne is run by The Aspinall Foundation which was set up by a man called John Aspinall in 1957, when he bought Howletts Wildlife Park, a park near to Port Lympne. In ’73 he bought Port Lympne, today they house over 1000 animals and 100 different species. They are world leaders in breeding and in recent years they have released black rhino, javan langurs, javan gibbons, western lowland gorillas and european bison back into the wild.
Today the work is continued by John Aspinall’s son, Damian. John Aspinall loved all animals, but his gorillas were his pride and joy, he always dreamed of helping them and releasing them into their natural habitat.