On Saturday my wife and I decided to take a trip to our local wildlife park at Hammerton; a hidden gem in the Cambridgeshire countryside. Jolly good fun it was too. Ostensibly we went to see their recently acquired giant ant-eater; a beastie I have never clapped eyes on before and what a magnificent beastie it was. Some animals are so outlandish in appearance that they have to be seen to be believed. The giant anteater is one such fantastical creature; evolution at its most creative.
Amongst laughing at the antics of marmosets and meercats and other furry favourites my mind was nevertheless seeking out bloggable gems of knowledge to share right here.
Hammerton is dedicated to the preservation of endangered species large and small and another remarkable animal which they are working to bring back from the brink of extinction is the Poitou Donkey. Also known as the Mammoth Donkey due to its unusual size and shaggy appearance, this gentle giant was a stalwart of the Medieval agricultural economy; used as a stud animal for the breeding of mules.
A native of the historical French region from which it takes its name, the Poitou Donkey was highly prized by landowners and was even regarded as something of a status symbol amongst the landed elite. The Poitou Donkey retained its importance as a stud animal up to and throughout the First World War but the rise of the automobile ended the reliance on beasts of burden and almost spelled the end for the species. By the 1970’s only 30 animals remained. Now thanks to conservation efforts their numbers are recovering.
More slightly historical animal facts later in the week.