Knowsley Safari Park, which opened in 1971, covers an area of around 220 hectares/550 acres. (That is more than 300 football pitches). It’s a mixture of woodland and grassland with around 700 animals from all around the world, living in 11 different zones. Although they all wander freely within their own zones, each zone is separated from its neighbours by a secure perimeter fence, plus cattle-grids across the road, to make sure the animals can’t stray into the wrong area and become somebody else’s dinner.
As there are some animals in there that quite like eating people as well, we had to get back on the coach to do the 8 km/ 5 mile Safari Drive.
Luckily we also had a guide with us and who was able to point out all the different animals and tell us more about them.
The first ones we saw were called Pere David’s deer, which have long been extinct in the wild, but breed successfully in zoos and safari parks.
They have a head like a horse, a tail like a donkey, and feet like a cow. The males also have enormous antlers and the one with the most impressive antlers gets to mate with all the females in the herd. Our guide told us that the young males rub their smaller antlers in mud and then in twigs and leaves to make them look a bit bigger. But the females aren’t impressed with this at all and, as a result, just one male had 142 girlfriends last year – which I think is a bit greedy!
Our next stop was by the shelters for the Southern White Rhinos…
…and, as the wind was rising and the clouds looked full of rain, two of the rhinos were at home.
I was amazed at how big they were, with the females usually weighing around 1700 kg/1.67 tons and the males being heavier at 2300 kg/2.26 tons – though our guide told us that the male rhino at Knowsley was actually smaller than the female. The tour guide also told us that a group of rhinos is called a crash– well, I’d certainly not like to crash into one as, not only are they enormous, but also they have skin like armour-plating and two huge horns on their noses.
After seeing the rhinos, we moved on to the African Woodland Zone where we saw a wonderful animal called a Bongo.
He had a bright ginger coat with vertical white stripes on his side. This allowed him to hide in the long grass in his native Congo, though it made him very obvious in the safari park where the grass was short and green. I liked him so much that I even made up this poem about him:
“There once was a Bongo,
Who lived by the Congo,
Where the weather is sunny and hot.
But, when he moved near the Mersey,
He needed a jersey –
And a scarf he could tie in a knot!”
From the woodland zone, we went back into a different part of the African Savannah zone, where there were wildebeests (also known as gnus) and many different kinds of deer and antelope.
I can’t remember what they were all called now, but the guide told us that one little herd was made up of the smelliest animals in the zoo because they rolled in their own poop to put lions off wanting to eat them when they lived in the wild. (If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’m also hoping to put the lions off from wanting to eat me, but, because I’m a clean Little Bear, I’ve got a much less messy plan in mind for when we get there!)
Though we didn’t see her that day, there was also a rhino called Winnie living in this zone, which connected to the area where we’d seen the other rhinos. She’d originally lived in a zoo where she’d always walked on concrete and so no one knew until she got to Knowsley and started crying that she suffered from hayfever – which is a bit ironic as the main food for rhinos is grass!
After that, we went onto the car-friendly monkey route which allows you to see the baboons from outside their huge enclosure and so not run the risk of losing your wing mirrors or windscreen wipers which they love to remove if they get the chance.
Looking at them from the coach, they didn’t look all that big – maybe about 700 mm/ 27.56 inches tall, but our guide told us that their canine teeth can grow up to 88.9mm/ 3.5 inches long, so I guess that if one of them showed you its teeth and said it wanted your wing mirror, you’d not say no!
From seeing the baboons, we moved on to the Eurasian zone, where we saw European bison
and European moose,
plus fallow deer.
We also saw one of the she-wolves who’d been temporarily moved from the main wolf enclosure as – according to our guide – there was a bit of courting going on and she’d got jealous. She seemed to be having a good time on her own, however, as she’d just caught a rabbit and was about to eat it for her tea.
We then moved on to another African Savannah zone – the one where the lions live – and it was time to put my plan into action, just in case Mum was going to follow through on her threat to feed me to them.
While everyone else was looking out for lions as we drove through their big enclosure, I quickly pulled out my stickers and stuck them on the windscreen to warn the lions off.
But, as it happened, I didn’t need to. Mum had forgiven me for being rude about her – and the lions were in their sheltered area, tucking in to a carcase which I’m sure was more to their taste than I would have been!
After that we met up with a few yaks and some Bactrian camels, who ganged together and stood in the road while we waited patiently for them to move on. Then our safari was at an end and we were soon on our way back home after another lovely day out.
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