WILDLIFE: A little cold comfort for zoo animals

POLAR winds and snow flakes might be turning us numb, but the animals at a zoo near Huntingdon are warm and snug in their winter shelters.

POLAR winds and snow flakes might be turning us numb, but the animals at a zoo near Huntingdon are warm and snug in their winter shelters.POLAR winds and snow flakes might be turning us numb, but the animals at a zoo near Huntingdon are warm and snug in their winter shelters.

At Hamerton Zoological Park, near Huntingdon, 100 species of exotic birds and animals, from as far afield as Africa and the Amazon, are being given extra food as they recline in heated enclosures.

One such animal is Ladybelle, an endangered Bengal tiger, rescued from a Belgian circus troupe last year.

Now in a spacious and cosy shelter, the three-year-old orange beauty barely had space to move when zoo manager Andrew Swales first saw her.

He said: "We saw her between the matinee and the evening circus performance. She was being kept in an enclosure with eight other animals and very little room. There is no comparison between her life there and her life now."

Django, a five-year-old cheetah from the Czech Republic, is also being looked after at the zoo park.

The long-legged bright yellow cat is a favourite among the attraction's 40,000 annual visitors and its manager.

Mr Swales said: "Django sits on our knees and purrs. We thought he'd grow out of that when he reached adulthood, but he hasn't."

Of course, African monkeys are used to tropical rainforest temperatures, rather than the cold Cambridgeshire climate, but Hamerton's thermostatically-controlled houses provide the ideal home for the primates.

Mr Swales added: "In winter we spend up to 3,000 in electricity, that is double the amount we go through in summer. But the real problem with winter is the short days.

"The animals are fine, but it is the keepers we need to worry about. They have a harder job to do in a shorter space of time and in the cold."

>>