Students traded the tranquil beauty of Oxford’s dreaming spires for a walk on the wild side yesterday, as they explored all that the Cotswold Wildlife Park had to offer. Which was a great deal―the 160 acres of mesmerising parkland is home to a highly diverse collection of species, from the very large (white rhinos and Bactrian camels), to the very small (leaf-cutter ants and Turkish spiny mice). Students cooed at the Visayan Warty Pig and Parma wallaby in the mammal park, and wondered at the dangerous potential of the Black Mamba and Blue Poison Dart frog. There was also an opportunity to cuddle up with the more approachable animals (think pygmy goats and miniature donkeys).
A particular highlight of the visit was the penguin feed, where students got the chance to learn from Keeper Steve about the particular penguin diet (the Park’s Humboldt penguins live on sprats, small oily fish), and what the penguins are up to this season. For summer is when new penguins tend to arrive, emerging from the rather unhygienic nests (as we would see it, brought up as we are amid wooden cots and goose-down pillows) where as newly-hatched chicks they have been mustering their strength. Chicks form their nests from their own faeces, or ‘guano’―and as students learned, this practice, whilst effective within the bounds of the Cotswold walled garden enclosure, is endangering penguins in the wild, as the ‘guano’ of their nests is harvested by industrial farmers for use as fertiliser.
An active and insightful day, all in all, it had to come to an end sometime―students were packed back onto the coach at 5pm, and conveyed back to dinner and rest in St Hugh’s.