Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Everyone loves a cuddle with an aminal

Do you remember when you were a kid? 

Did you love playing with animals; rolling around on the floor with a puppy or teasing a cat with a piece of string.

Are you one of these people who have never truly grown out of that?
One of the people who may act mature until you see a cheeky looking dog and suddenly you become a soppy little sod and start using that bizarre 'animal chat' that we all seem to go into.

I have to admit I am one of those people and have always had a love of animals.

I think it stems from my Grandparents always having cats and dogs. When the dogs had puppies it was a massive event in my child hood and I was always over there on the kitchen floor tickling the puppies bellies and playing chase with them.

When they were all sold off I shed a tear as they had become my friends.

As I grew older I experienced more animals including horses when my father took me riding and I partook in gymkhanas and show jumping until I became bored with it and went back to sports.

Even though I left that world behind I still will always stroke a horse and am fascinated by them and can still ride if I was plonked on one.

Although my friend said I had no fear on a horse but a terrible technique!

Anyway as the years have passed that love of animals has never diminished. I may have got older but I am still a massive soppy git when I play with a puppy.

I truly believe David Attenborough is one of the reasons I love them. As a child I would be transfixed by what his programmes showed and the wonderful animal life on display.

However in my adult years while I have traveled and matured I have come into contact with some fantastic animals that you would not necessarily see in the UK apart from behind bars of a zoo.
When I visited the Serengeti a gigantic Bull elephant wandered into our campsite one day. This hulking beats looking for food took no notice of us and just stood in the sun pulling down branches with his trunk and shoving the foliage into his mouth.

I thought it would be a good idea to try and get closer for a photo. I managed to gingerly get to within probably 50 yards and had the photo. Then when I wandered back over a man in khaki with a gun sternly told me off.

Therefore after that experience I didn't approach another elephant. However one approached me. Or us I should say.

While travelling in Botswana a small family of elephant crossed the road in front of the truck I was travelling in. One calf suddenly became scared of the truck and darted in the opposite direction.

The elephant that tried to attack our truck

This rather large elephant that I didn't know if it was a he or a she took um-bridge to this and squared up to our truck.

 The ears came out and the trunk rose. The giant elephant slapped itself and shook its head violently sending a cloud of dust into the air.

It stepped forward and looked like it was about the charge. People in the truck were scrambling to get to the back when suddenly the driver gunned the engine and started to rev.

The elephant came forward again and every movement it made the driver revved harder and longer.
This stand off lasted probably only a minute but seemed an eternity.

Then all of a sudden one extra loud rev sent the elephant running off.

Of course not all animals experiences like those are dangerous  One of my favorites has to be just outside Nairobi at the giraffe sanctuary.

The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife can be found on the brilliantly named Simba Hill.
This centre offers the unique opportunity of feeding saved and hand reared giraffes from a highly erected platform.

Of course by feeding them they do not mean put the pellets in your mouth and get the giraffe to snog them off you. This of course is what I did.

At the time of visiting only me and my fiend Alistair were present, then the obligatory tour bus turned up. But by the time they had the giraffes were coming over and snogging me with long blue tongues like there was no tomorrow. This of course caused shrieks from the new tour bus but to me it just made me smile. 

Even though my face was covered in slimy spit.

Of course not all animals that I have had the pleasure of meeting were on the large scale. You see all the big beasts while on safari but its the little ones who seem to have the most character.

I am very lucky to have a friend who works for a company that provides animals for TV and film; and even luckier to have gone there on several occasions.

Impeyan the zoo that comes to you also do children's parties and I would highly recommend them.
The skunk makes a break for it

Recently I went there with a friend and his wife and there two little naughty, cheeky and adorable little kids.

There their faces lit up as they held snakes, skunks, tortoises, bats, Cayman crocodiles and what excited them the most was the meerkats.

For me the skunk who had been de-sented was a real treat. He was like a playful dog. He was cuddly, soft, fidgety and would chew on your fingers without menace.

They were large like a small dog but more agile and could climb up your arm and before you know it be on your back. 

While the meerkats were cheeky little buggers who would put their snout up your nostril, get on your head or try and open your mouth a climb in!

Visiting the animals with the kids made me think how we never really grow out of it. They were in their element and so were their parents.

To be honest if you loved animals as a child you will always have a soft spot for them in your heart. 
All you need to do is rekindle it by playing with one again.

Alternatively you could just dress as one and run the Great Gorilla Run and get to be on TV and harass Bill Oddie.

Meeting a Barbary macaque in Gibraltar. The only place in mainland Europe you will find wild apes.

Feeding a lion cub in a zoo. Not as special as seeing them on safari walk up to your land cruiser, but a great experience.

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