Episode 7 Animal Park


Episode 7

Love is in the air at Longleat safari park, or so Deputy Head Warden Ian Turner hopes, as a couple of rhinos with a combined weight of over three tons go on a date.


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Transcript


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This is Winston, who at 38 years old is one of the oldest rhinos in the country.

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Although it looks as if he is enjoying a quiet life,

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the keepers have plans to make him a father for the very first time.

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Yes, apparently it is never too late for a rhino to find love.

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The keepers have set up a date for him

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and we will find out whether romance is in the air on today's programme!

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Coming up - will the precious new arrivals break the deadly curse of meerkat mountain?

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In pursuit of love - three tonnes of randy rhino go on the rampage.

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This might make a few cars move!

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And Bev takes her chances with killer snakes and scorpions

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as she hunts for the elusive pancake tortoise.

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But first, most animals have a one-track mind.

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Apart from eating, they generally put a great deal of effort into making babies.

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And no-one spends more time thinking about reproduction than Ian Turner, the deputy head warden.

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He is desperate to have a baby.

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To be precise, a beautiful bouncing baby rhino.

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After all, it has now been almost four years since Ian went to

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South Africa to fetch their three new rhinos. Unjanu, the male,

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and Roseena and Marashi, the females.

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They are absolutely gorgeous.

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Really good. Better than I thought.

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At the time, they were too young to start breeding but Ian had his eyes on the prize from the start.

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Two years down the line, we should have two young ones.

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There is nothing to say we shouldn't do.

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12 months later, Ian hadn't lost his focus.

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I am hoping down the line we will have two baby rhinos.

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And another year on, he was starting to sound like a broken record.

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Hopefully, the young ones will start mating this year

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because they have got to the right age and then two years

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down the lines, there is no reason why we shouldn't have baby rhinos.

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The three youngsters are now old enough to be sexually mature but so far nothing.

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So recently, the keepers have been arranging to put Unjanu and Roseena out together,

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like on a romantic date, away from the others.

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And this morning, Ian's excited.

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They haven't actually done anything yet but at least they are getting to know each other a little better.

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# How deep is you love

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# Is your love... #

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They are showing encouraging signs,

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playing about and he is getting interested.

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# Cos we're living in a world of... #

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I would be very surprised if there is not mating this year and disappointed.

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This is all good signs, the sword fighting, putting their head on the back and mounting.

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That is all good stuff.

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# ..to you and me... #

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But there is one particular behaviour which usually indicates things are about to get steamy.

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It is when they finished the sword fighting and he decides he will run off.

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The other starts chasing.

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Now, there is over three tonnes of rampant rhino to charging around the park at 30mph.

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This could be dangerous.

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This might make a few cars move.

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# Je t'aime

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# Oui, je t'aime

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# Moi non plus... #

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But a moment later, something goes wrong.

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RECORD SCRATCHES AND MUSIC STOPS

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Unjanu and Roseena have

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abruptly gone off the boil and suddenly got interested in a nice patch of grass.

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Could it be they are still too young?

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Luckily, this pair isn't the only couple Ian has hope for.

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There is also the other young female, ??

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and the park's older male, Winston.

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MUSIC: Steptoe And Son Theme

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He is somewhat elderly but the vet has checked him out and reckons he is up to the job.

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So, Ian can still dream.

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My biggest wish would be for Winston to mate with one of the females.

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That would be my wish list.

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If they went berserk, they could have twins. That is a bit of wishful thinking.

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In the 31 years I have been here, we've never had twins.

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We have had lots of baby rhinos born and they are cute.

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It's no wonder Ian is so broody after what happened on his trip to Kenya last year.

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He had the chance to get really close to a couple of orphaned baby black rhino. Ian was over the moon.

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Thank you very much.

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You could see how boisterous they get and when they want food and

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it's finished that is when it gets out of hand. Absolutely gorgeous.

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So, after that experience, Ian redoubled his efforts to have one of his very own.

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Now, he has got the keeper, Kevin, taking samples of

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dung in order to figure out when she will be most likely to conceive.

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They test for the female hormones

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and we get the results back and plot it on a graph.

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We are looking for each peak to be 30 - 35 days,

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which is when the rhinos come into season.

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It takes 35 days to come into the next season.

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At the moment, we can see that it is about...

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that was about six weeks.

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That is a little bit

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too long, really.

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We need to try and make an average of her cycles and go from

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the average and put the bull out with her around that sort of time.

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Once they've established the pattern, they will arrange a romantic rendezvous with Winston.

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However, in rhino years, Marashi

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is a teenager while Winston, let's face it, got his bus pass some time ago.

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So will their tryst be a hot date or a damp squib?

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We will find out later on.

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Unlike the rhino area, pets corner is a prolific place for births.

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But one area that hasn't enjoyed much success is the ill-fated meerkat mountain.

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Following the much-loved meerkat's progress has often been a tale of

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tragedy with the babies dying a few weeks after being born.

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Only this year, keeper John Reynolds lost several to

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a mysterious disease, leaving a dark cloud hanging over meerkat mountain.

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But, things could be looking up.

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I'm down at meerkat mountain where there has been some really exciting news. The meerkats have had pups.

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So, this is what the meerkats live.

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This is their burrow inside the mountain.

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-And where are the pups?

-The pups are down here.

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Dad is looking after them.

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There are some underneath the tubes.

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I can see a little tail sticking out. That is dad...

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That's dad looking after them. Mum is behind him there.

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They are extraordinary.

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-Remind me how many pups are there.

-Five pups born about four or five days ago now.

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And they are still obviously

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in that fragile state where the parents are being protective.

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Yeah, they are very protective parents, looking after them and making sure they are all all right.

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There is always one babysitting, making sure they are OK.

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Every so often she will come over and feed them. The dad is

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watching them and making sure none get into trouble.

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That extraordinary noise going on, is that because of the pups or are meerkats always vocal like that?

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When they are babies they make as much noise as possible.

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You will walk in in the morning and know they are born because of the noise.

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It's just amazing.

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How long will they be suckling, taking milk

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-from the mother?

-Probably suckle for about a month and they will wean on solid food.

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They will carry on suckling after that but it doesn't take long

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after they are weaned until they are fully weaned.

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Have they got all the same stripes and colourings as a fully grown meerkat?

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No, they're very pale right now.

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-It is only when they get

-to nine or ten weeks they get their stripes and markings.

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Just extraordinary. It must be really exciting for you to see this addition to your collection.

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It really is absolutely incredible for us. It has taken us a long time to get them breeding.

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Now they are trying to get their colony up, it is really good for us.

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Bearing in mind these pups are just a few days old, how long

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before they can venture out into meerkat mountain?

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Normally, it will be about three weeks or so, they will come out, not go too far away from the tunnel.

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There will be some one watching them, one of the adults to make sure they are all right.

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As they get braver and braver they will go further and further out.

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It doesn't take much to make them scarper back to the tunnel again.

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I bet. Eventually they will have the run of the place and feel very at home.

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With these special new births, everyone now has their fingers

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crossed that meerkat mountain's run of bad luck may finally be at an end.

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The safari park's African connections run deep -

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that's where so many of the animals here come from.

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In the past, many of the keepers have had the opportunity to travel south to that vast wild continent.

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This year, it is the turn of Bev Allen, Michelle Stephens, Ryan Hockley and Keith Harris.

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They have flown into the game reserve in Tanzania

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to learn more about their animals and help with conservation projects.

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In our last programme, we followed the action as

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Keith and Ryan joined in an operation to help return a pack of African hunting dogs to the wild.

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Now, we are going to catch up with Bev and she is going on a wildlife hunt

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but the animal she's after doesn't have big teeth, is unlikely to charge and couldn't outrun anything.

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Bev is looking for one of Tanzania's rarest creatures - the pancake tortoise.

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Back home, she helps look after four pancake tortoises.

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It is a threatened species which has some unusual habits.

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Out here, Bev is hoping to discover detailed information about their

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native environment in order to improve their Longleat environment.

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This is an ideal area you would find a pancake tortoise

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because you have these rocks where they would hide in the crevices.

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There are lots of different plants as well.

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If you feel the rocks, they are quite warm so pancake tortoises need

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the heat to survive and keep them going because

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the sun will shine on their shell, warms them up and off they go.

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You would see them on the stones warming up and when it gets too hot they can go into the holes and

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get away from the sunlight and also to get away from predators because it is quite open.

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You probably get predators coming up

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that may attack them.

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They can lock themselves in the crevices where they would be safe.

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They expand their shell and with their claws

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they hold on inside the crevices so nothing can pull them out.

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As a threatened species, pancake tortoises are very rare

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but they have been spotted amongst these rocks before.

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So, it is worth having a good look.

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In our enclosure at Pet's Corner it is a small enclosure.

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We are hoping to make it bigger and the greenery and different grasses and plants...

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It would be a really good idea if we can get more greenery in there for them, which would be brilliant.

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I would like to take some photos I can take back

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to Pet's Corner and show Darren and Joe the pictures so we can

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get some ideas for our enclosure.

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Of course, one of the advantages of a digital camera

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is you can send photos by e-mail so in fact the pictures could be back at Pet's Corner long before Bev.

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Unfortunately, there is no sign of any tortoises out here today.

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On the other hand, there is no sign of anything else.

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I was worried putting my hands in the crevices because I hear

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there are lots of snakes around and scorpions, which are very nasty.

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But I will keep coming out and hopefully might find one, fingers crossed.

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We will catch up with Bev later to see if she gets lucky on the great tortoise hunt.

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It's been over two decades since they last had a baby rhino at Longleat,

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and deputy head warden Ian Turner is getting broody.

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And while he's been doing everything possible to get his four white rhino to breed, down at

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Paignton Zoo in Devon, they've had a bit more luck with their black rhino.

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Recently, 12-year-old female, Sita, had a little daughter, Zuri.

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Today, Ian is taking a trip down to Paignton, to meet

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their curator of mammals, Neil Bemment, and see if he can pick up a few tips.

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Zuri's was the first rhino birth in Britain to be covered by a live webcam.

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It several of us to actually stand in an adjacent building and see

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what was going on without actually having to be there as she...maybe putting Sita off with our presence.

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But things started to go wrong after the birth.

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Four hours later, the baby still hadn't been able to get up and suckle from Mum.

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For keepers Lucy McKenna and Louise Manning, it was an emotional roller-coaster.

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It really was agonising, wasn't it?

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One minute we were all happy and the baby was born, and everyone

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was cheering and celebrating and the next minute, "Oh, no, what now?"

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We were starting to think everyone was getting worried and everyone...

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Everyone looking at each other, what shall we do?

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You could see her really struggling, but her legs kept slipping away from her all the time.

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The keepers had no choice but to go in and help the baby to stand.

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Luckily, after that shaky start, everything went well for mother and daughter.

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And now Zuri is three months old.

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You can see, she's absolutely gorgeous.

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All that stress and worry floats to the back of your mind.

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She's really sturdy and seems to be going from strength to strength.

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Ian is supposed to be here on a fact-finding mission,

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but that doesn't mean he can't spend time like everyone else, just doting on the little angel.

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They're a massive animal.

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They can be quite friendly.

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The babies, even though they're that size, they're really, really cute,

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but they're just an absolutely marvellous animal.

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This just puts it on to the reasons why we want baby rhinos.

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Cos you look at that little one, that's everybody's dream, to have

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a baby rhino, and hopefully that's what we'll get in 16 months' time.

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Of course, that all depends on something special happening back at Longleat.

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And now, all the indications are that young Marashi should soon be in the mood for love.

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The question is, will dear old Winston be able to cope with a tonne and a half of red hot rhino?

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Earlier, Bev Allen went in search of the rare pancake tortoise in their native Tanzania.

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Although she didn't find any, she did discover a lot about their environment

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and sent the photos back to Longleat for the pancake tortoises there.

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I'm up at Pet's Corner with keeper, Jo Hawthorne, and these magnificent tortoises.

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They're very beautiful, but they are quite flat, Jo.

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They're absolutely stunning, aren't they?

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Why are you in there and the tortoise is out here?

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-If you turn around now and look at these pictures...

-Oh, wow! This is beautiful.

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She sent the an e-mail and she's been out there where these are

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-from, and this is the home of these pancake tortoises.

-Oh, fantastic.

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So, I've blown them up and put them...

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-So, you're recreating it all here.

-Yes.

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Oh, my goodness. That's fantastic!

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I'm just finishing putting this up.

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This is actually a copy in the background here.

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-We've got our own here at Longleat, but obviously not quite the same.

-That's going to look fantastic.

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It's made such a difference, you know, and hopefully they'll feel more at home now.

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It's raining and cold here in England and I just...

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Having this lovely African backdrop! Presumably, it's quite important when you're keeping exotic animals

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like this to have as natural an environment for them as possible.

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Definitely. It you want them to obviously act, breed naturally, everything you can do, it's not just

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the temperature, it's things that would be in their surroundings, so, plants, it just helps...

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-Gives the right atmosphere.

-Yes. And the visitors as well, so it's really important.

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What about plants and things? What sort of vegetation would they have around?

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Mainly, not dissimilar to some of our Mediterranean tortoises, lots of weedy grass, mainly.

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These things that you've down here, shall I give you that?

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-We have a red baron here.

-Right.

-That grows really tall, very bushy.

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This is the kind of thing you'd actually find up in these kind of altitudes.

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Are these as long-lived? Tortoises can live 50, even 100 years.

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Obviously, the predation rate of these when they're very small,

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they're literally like a 50p piece, it's very high.

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Certainly, these have gone for about 25 years.

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-Right.

-Nothing like as long as your other ones.

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OK. I'll give you Yuri back.

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Let you come out.

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-There you go. Shall I put her on there?

-There you are, sweetheart.

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There you go, girl.

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I'm going to come out and have a look. Final touch.

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-Are you ready?!

-Yes!

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Fantastic!

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Jo, it looks brilliant!

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Absolutely brilliant! Look at that!

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-It's like a little corner of Africa.

-I'm so pleased.

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Well done. Thank you very much.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the park, old Winston is about to have

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his first date alone with young Marashi.

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It's up to keeper, Kevin Knibbs to play Cupid.

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He's been monitoring the state of Marashi's hormones and

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reckons if she's going to get pregnant, today is the day.

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Kevin has let her out in the yard first while Winston is still inside.

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She does seem very interested.

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We're just introducing Marashi to Winston through the bars,

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so that they know who's coming out really, more than anything.

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She's in high spirits by the look of it. She's making lots of localisations, which is good.

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They're just letting each other know that they're there, really.

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She's a little bit anxious because she's out here on her own.

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Normally she comes out with the other female.

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But today, we need to do it one-on-one,

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so she's out here on her own for now, so she's probably a little bit anxious.

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And she's wondering what's going on, really.

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It looks like Marashi's ready for love, but what about Winston?

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At 38 years old, he's a real rhino pensioner,

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but the vet has declared him fit for duty,

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although in terms of behaviour, anything could happen.

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If Winston really was aggressive towards her, he could do a lot of damage. He's a big, massive rhino.

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He weighs two-and-a-half tonnes.

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She's maybe a tonne and a half, so, he could really do a lot of damage to her.

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He could knock her down, and we don't really want that to happen.

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If we had to split the rhinos up from fighting, we'd have a couple of people with fire extinguishers

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and they let them off, so the noise would distract the rhinos

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and then we could move our tractors in between them as a barrier and that should defuse the situation.

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The tractors are escorting them down to the park, ready for their big date.

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They kept the other rhinos in, so the couple can have a little privacy.

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Now to find out, will Marashi fall for the older type?

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And will this turn out to be Winston's finest hour?

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That's her on the right.

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She's flirting, but this isn't good.

0:22:220:22:26

In rhino romance, the boy is supposed to start playing rough and acting like the tough guy.

0:22:260:22:33

So, maybe Winston just isn't that interested.

0:22:330:22:37

Though she's not going to leave him alone.

0:22:370:22:40

# What can I do to make you love me?

0:22:400:22:44

# To make you love me

0:22:440:22:46

# What can I do to make you care?

0:22:460:22:50

# To make you care

0:22:500:22:52

# What can I say to make you feel this?

0:22:520:22:57

# To make you feel this

0:22:570:22:58

# What can I do to get you there... #

0:22:580:23:04

With Winston, he's not a big rough old brute that we think he is, he's quite a gentle old soul,

0:23:040:23:10

and I think he's going to take his time with this.

0:23:100:23:13

I think we're putting pressure on the rhinos ourselves, because we want baby rhinos.

0:23:130:23:18

But they'll produce them when they're good and ready, really.

0:23:180:23:22

We can't influence that very much.

0:23:220:23:24

Back in his office, Ian Turner has been reviewing some footage of the

0:23:240:23:28

other couple to see if they're any closer to the desired goal.

0:23:280:23:32

But no joy yet.

0:23:320:23:34

Ian is trying to be patient.

0:23:340:23:36

After all, it's still early days.

0:23:360:23:39

They're just coming to the right age, so hopefully,

0:23:390:23:45

15, 16 months down the line, we could be... the patter of large tiny feet.

0:23:450:23:51

So, for now, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and wait.

0:23:510:23:55

Hopefully, though, it'll won't be too long before Ian's dreams come true.

0:23:550:23:59

Back in Tanzania, Bev Allen has been searching high and low

0:24:100:24:13

for one of their rarest residents, the pancake tortoise.

0:24:130:24:18

She's had no luck, but now on a drive through the bush, she's spotted something else.

0:24:180:24:23

I found a tortoise. Our first tortoise in Tanzania.

0:24:230:24:28

A leopard tortoise, I do believe.

0:24:280:24:31

It's in really good condition, actually, which is brilliant.

0:24:310:24:34

I think it could be a female.

0:24:340:24:36

The shell underneath, you just have a bit more of a dip.

0:24:360:24:39

This is quite straight.

0:24:390:24:41

Usually, the females are bigger than the males as well.

0:24:430:24:45

We don't have any leopard tortoises at Longleat.

0:24:450:24:49

We had pancake tortoises, which we were hoping,

0:24:490:24:52

well I was hoping to see one at least here, cos they do come from here,

0:24:520:24:55

but it's just brilliant to see one of these.

0:24:550:24:57

At least I'd seen a tortoise now, which is great.

0:24:570:25:00

I've never seen a tortoise in the wild, only in captivity, back at Pet's Corner, so this is brilliant,

0:25:000:25:07

especially when you're just driving along and there it sort of was, walking along the road.

0:25:070:25:12

That's brilliant. It's quite a big one, actually.

0:25:120:25:15

It's hard to tell an age of a tortoise.

0:25:150:25:18

The shell's in very good condition. Some people say, like counting the rings on the shell,

0:25:180:25:23

you can tell the age, but it's not actually an accurate way of telling, really.

0:25:230:25:27

And of course, this is a perfect area for tortoises to sort of run around,

0:25:290:25:34

get away from the predators in the bushes as well,

0:25:340:25:37

and as you can see, because it's very warm, quite active as well.

0:25:370:25:40

Back at Longleat, some animals that have been around

0:25:500:25:53

for centuries are the herds of deer, living in the surrounding parkland.

0:25:530:25:56

In recent times, all sorts of other animals have moved in, but the deer are still here.

0:25:560:26:03

Kate and I've joined head of section Tim Yeo out in the deer paddock here

0:26:030:26:07

with some of these magnificent looking fallows.

0:26:070:26:11

They're looking in such good form, Tim, with their antlers, their coats are looking radiant.

0:26:110:26:16

That's right, Ben, I mean this really is fallow peak condition time, it really is.

0:26:160:26:23

They'll start very shortly to thicken their necks.

0:26:230:26:28

They'll put a lot of weight into the neck, in preparation for the rut,

0:26:280:26:30

which comes in the autumn, about September or October.

0:26:300:26:33

This is quite an unusual sight, I suppose, to see males

0:26:330:26:39

in full antler, but actually quite peaceful and not fighting.

0:26:390:26:43

Presumably, that all changes once the testosterone levels come up and they start thinking about the girls?

0:26:430:26:49

Exactly, Kate, you've got it.

0:26:490:26:52

Certainly. As soon as they start to clean their antlers,

0:26:520:26:57

there'll be a lot of bickering going on and they will not tolerate this sort of close company here.

0:26:570:27:02

What happens? Tell us about what goes on during the rut?

0:27:020:27:06

Bucks very close to each other will have rutting stands, dotted around.

0:27:060:27:10

-And they will display and will fight off...

-So it's like their own little territories?

-Exactly.

0:27:100:27:14

-Just, just...

-Just like me!

0:27:140:27:17

-I was gonna say!

-And they'll be fighting for females,

0:27:170:27:21

-they'll be trying to attract females over to them?

-Exactly.

0:27:210:27:24

They're strutting around, they've already fought in some cases.

0:27:240:27:29

Some cases they're just...the mere presence of them is enough to intimidate

0:27:290:27:34

a younger animal.

0:27:340:27:36

But they'll attract the does and the does will decide who they go to?

0:27:360:27:42

They've got the pick of an enormous number of bucks, and they'll walk up to...

0:27:420:27:47

I challenge you, Tim, to rut over Kate!

0:27:470:27:50

Yes, I think the two of you should take a stand!

0:27:500:27:54

Tim, thank you very much indeed. Sadly that's all we have time for on today's programme.

0:27:540:27:58

But here's what's coming up on the next Animal Park.

0:27:580:28:02

One of Britain's rarest and wisest birds gets in a flap.

0:28:020:28:05

Lionesses Jazeera and Malika both need an operation, but getting them on their

0:28:070:28:12

own proves a real challenge.

0:28:120:28:14

The one we don't want has gone through.

0:28:140:28:16

And back in Africa, an orphaned hyena must be drugged in order to return her to the wild.

0:28:180:28:23

But then, something goes horribly wrong.

0:28:230:28:27

Why isn't she waking up?

0:28:270:28:29

Join us when the drama continues on the next Animal Park.

0:28:290:28:34

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:340:28:38

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:380:28:41

Love is in the air at Longleat safari park today, or so Deputy Head Warden Ian Turner hopes, as a couple of rhinos with a combined weight of over three tons go on a date. Meanwhile Kate Humble helps some pancake tortoises feel more at home and Ben Fogle checks on the progress of the Meerkat Mountain babies.


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