Episode 15 Animal Park


Episode 15

Longleat House is on red alert when one of the great ceilings shows signs of collapse. Meanwhile out in the park, Ben Fogle gets the latest news on some rare pelican eggs.


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Transcript


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Longleat House is one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture

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anywhere in the country, filled with unimaginable treasures and exquisite beauty.

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But the house is on red alert and one area has had to be closed off,

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because one of the irreplaceable great ceilings is in danger of collapsing.

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We'll be bringing you the full story on today's Animal Park.

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Today, on Animal Park...

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This man is a legend of African conservation and used to play with big cats like they were big softies.

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But what will he make of Longleat's pride and what will they make of him?

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And it's a very big day for the keepers in Pets Corner,

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as one of the most at-risk creatures they've ever had arrives.

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But what's in the box?

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Also coming up, we'll be heading into the great house to find out

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exactly why some of the breathtaking rooms have been shut to the public.

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Out in the safari park, it's been a bit of a rough year

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for the keepers who look after the animals down by Half Mile Lake.

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It's now been a while since their treasured

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female gorilla, Samba, died and the mourning period has been very difficult for all the staff.

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But particularly head of section, Mark Tye.

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They were definitely in need of some good news and it may have finally arrived

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courtesy of these pink-backed pelicans.

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Ben has gone to get the latest.

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-Hi, Mark.

-Hello, Ben.

-So what's the news?

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The news is, Ben, brilliant.

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We have now five pelican eggs, pink-backed pelican eggs, in the incubators. Brilliant.

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Look at the smile on your face. That says it all.

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I'm really pleased because we had no success last year and the last time we had any was the year previous

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and we did successfully rear three chicks out of that batch.

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We've learned an awful lot with different things we've tried, so we're really hopeful that these

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little babies are going to do something for us this year.

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I really haven't seen you looking so excited for a long time.

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First of all, why are they in incubators here?

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Mainly because the parents aren't very good at looking after them themselves.

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We've left them with eggs in the past and they've fought over them,

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kicked them off the nest, stood on them, broken them,

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and because they're such a sort of valuable commodity

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to us we take them away and do them ourselves because it's a lot safer.

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Basically an incubator keeps it at the right temperature, moves them around slightly?

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Yeah, it keeps them at the correct temperature, the humidity level,

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and they get turned automatically, so it's pretty much put them in and forget about them.

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Are you monitoring them? Are you keeping an eye on them?

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Yeah, we do a lot of monitoring.

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We weigh them every day and also we measure the vein growth,

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which is the external blood supply spreading

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around the inside of the shell, and we take all these so that we know we're doing everything correctly

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and I've got lots of graphs from good and bad eggs, so I know when we're going right.

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OK. So how on earth can you look at the veins within the egg?

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Well, the easiest way is we candle them with this candling lamp and we hold the egg in front of the light.

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It shines a light into the egg and you can look in.

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-Can we look at that now?

-I have to turn the light off.

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Can I have a quick look at the egg as well. Can I see that?

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I won't touch it because I don't want to break it.

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It's almost like a goose-egg size, I actually thought it might be a bit larger.

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Yeah, it's slightly smaller than a goose egg, really.

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Very chalky shell.

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-The first thing you look at is what the shell looks like.

-Yeah.

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From my experience that's a really nice-quality eggshell, you know.

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That one there, not so good.

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-A bit calcified, a bit lumpy, but this is a nice-quality egg.

-OK, so I turn the light off, do I?

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OK, there we go, bit dark, and you're going to hold that up to the lamp and what are you looking for?

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I'm looking for these veins here.

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-I can see them. There are the red veins.

-Yeah, quite thick.

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If you see this big shadow here, you might be able to see it move.

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There, pretty good.

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You see it moving?

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That is the embryo, developing embryo, inside the egg.

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Isn't that incredible! What's that at the top of the egg?

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-I can see a much lighter area.

-Uh-huh.

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That is the air cell.

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When you first get the egg, it's a tiny little bubble at the end.

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But as the egg progresses through the incubation period,

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the air cell gets larger.

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And just before the chick is due to hatch,

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it breaks through into the air cell and breathes with its own lungs.

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And then a day after it's done that, it breaks a hole through the shell

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to get more oxygen in so it can breathe.

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And then it chips all the way round, and hopefully pops out.

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Wow! Shall I turn the light back on?

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So basically, how much longer do you estimate

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that egg will take before, potentially, it hatches?

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Well, he's on day 15 at the moment,

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so he's got about another 13 days to go.

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Right, so 28 days in total?

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Between 28 and 30 days normally.

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Well Mark, listen, best of luck.

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And we will have our fingers crossed

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that this year we'll see some new pelicans here at Longleat.

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Longleat House is one of the very finest examples

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of Elizabethan architecture to be found anywhere in the country.

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The original building work was completed around 1580.

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But since then, the house has continued to evolve

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through a whole series of alterations and renovations.

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For example, the grand staircase was added a mere two centuries ago.

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But the most spectacular changes were done in the 1870s,

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when the great Victorian designer, JD Crace,

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put in seven magnificent ceilings.

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Inspired by the interiors of Italy's most sumptuous Renaissance palaces,

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these ceilings are widely regarded as Crace's masterpieces.

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But now, one of them is in grave peril.

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Something has been spotted that shows a real danger of collapse.

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House steward Steve Blyth faces an emergency in the lower dining room.

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Last Thursday was my day off.

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Late in the day, probably about half four, five o'clock,

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I got a phone call at home from Ken to tell me

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we'd had a major problem in the house, failure with the ceiling.

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One of the guides had looked up, noticed a gold bauble,

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you can see this wire on it, had actually slid down.

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It came from the roundel over here.

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It had dropped about an inch, so Ken quickly got a ladder out,

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went up, and it more or less dropped off in his hand.

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But of course we've got a major problem now,

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because all of that area of the ceiling has loosened off.

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So this is real shocker. It's real unfortunate.

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But this is not the first time there has been a problem with the ceiling.

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Estate manager Tim Moore remembers what happened 15 years ago.

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When I came to Longleat in 1992,

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we had an issue with actual movement on that ceiling.

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So we've always known the structure of the ceiling is a bit suspect.

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And then secondly, about two years ago,

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one of the ornamental plaster sections fell down.

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We got a specialist in who looked all over it,

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put the piece of plaster back, stuck it back.

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And the general view at the time was, yes,

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the plaster was obviously of the age it is.

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But generally the rest of the ceiling wasn't in too bad order.

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But if the structure was given the all clear, why,

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just two years later, is there another emergency?

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In fact, Longleat House could be a victim of its own success.

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Head guide Clare Mound may have the answer.

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Come summer we had 3,000-4,000 people through the house every day.

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And on one day at the bank holiday,

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we actually had 6,000 people walk through the house.

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That's a lot of feet for the poor old house.

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Longleat curator of historic collections is Kate Harris.

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The real problem in the room is that the identical room above,

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which is the state dining room,

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the public can only stand on one spot as they come through the door.

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So all the thousands of feet hit exactly the same spot

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immediately above the door.

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We are expecting to find when we investigate further,

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that the fragile condition of the ceiling

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is following the track of the many feet above.

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We haven't got that confirmed yet, but that's what we expect to find.

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But it will be almost a pathway of damage mirroring the room above.

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But right now, Steve and his team must take immediate action.

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The first thing was, we needed to seal this room off,

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because of the fear that something might drop down

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onto a visitor, or one of the guides.

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So they closed the room off.

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And of course we had to close the rooms above

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because the vibration was shaking the ceiling.

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And that room remains closed.

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Until we know what's happening here,

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we really cannot afford to have people upstairs.

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I think it is a massive aesthetic loss to the house

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to have the public really unable to see this room properly.

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This is one of the most important things that we show.

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So basically, as far as the interiors of Longleat go,

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it's what we lead with, so it's very, very important to us

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and very important to the public's experience as they tour the house.

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Apart from anything else, the timing couldn't have been much worse.

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This year, the exterior roof is undergoing major repairs.

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The last thing they needed was an emergency project inside.

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We've got the cost issues involved, the fact that, as you know,

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we're already halfway through a major repair for Longleat,

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renewing led on the roof.

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We've now got possible significant expenditure within the house.

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It is a concern, simply because at this stage

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we just don't know how big a problem it is.

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And it may be a very significant one.

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But the only way to know how bad the problem really is,

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will be to find out what's going on beneath the surface.

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We will be back later when they try to get some answers.

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It is a massive day for the keepers in Pets Corner.

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One of their most at-risk creatures are these pancake tortoises.

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They come from East Africa,

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and due to the destruction of their habitat in the wild,

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this species is really struggling.

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Longleat has had females for a while,

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but today are joining an international breeding programme

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as a much-sought-after male has just arrived.

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I was on hand to help keeper Jo Hawthorne settle him in.

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Look at this!

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And now the time has finally come to introduce him to the girls.

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Well, it's a big day for this little fellow.

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This is Longleat's brand-new, first male pancake tortoise, Jo.

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That's right.

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So he's had his rest?

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He's had his rest overnight, yes. After his long journey from Bristol!

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So do you think he is ready to meet the girls?

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I reckon he is. He is getting impatient, I think.

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Big, big moment, fella.

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Now this is also a very important moment, isn't it?

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Yeah. He is part of a very carefully coordinated breeding programme,

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so the girls and himself are on the stub book for the pancake tortoise.

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Obviously to keep bloodlines fresh, these have been moved around.

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So they are all part of a very important programme now.

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So because of the state they are, they are vulnerable,

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it's a coordinated... The bloodline has to be kept fresh.

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That is why he is now coming here to meet our females.

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OK. Well, let's see what you can do for your species, shall we?

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So we'll pop him in.

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OK. So off he goes.

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Who knows - I don't know if he is going to smell them

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and really find interest in them now.

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He is very fast. He is going up to Mafuta there. He is so agile.

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He is amazing. He is showing incredible rock-climbing ability.

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People are amazed when they watch them.

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They can't believe that they climb.

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They find it odd that a tortoise can climb that quick

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and that high so fast.

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Now the most important thing. You have had him for 24 hours.

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Have you thought of a name for him yet?

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Well, yeah, because we have actually had a couple of nice sunny days,

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which is amazing.

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So we thought we would call him Jua.

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Jua means sun in Swahili.

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Oh, lovely! Perfect! Perfect.

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So he is the sun boy?

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He is, yeah, exactly.

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And we have all been looking forward to having him,

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and he's got a lovely golden colour as well.

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Well there, so he's perfect.

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He is the first male we have had.

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To see the difference in how he moves around

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and his mannerisms, his behaviours... He's faster moving

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and more inquisitive than the females.

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When we have them out for a health check,

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they will move around but they are not half as quick as he is.

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He's really kind of summing the place up.

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Oh, he's had a bit of a tumble! Oh, Lord!

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He'll turn around very easily.

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Because of the light weight of his body, he will flip over.

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They can flip over really, really quickly.

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Now we talked about how important this breeding programme is.

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They're an endangered tortoise. What do you expect will happen now?

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He's in here with two females. Have the females ever bred before?

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-They haven't, no.

-So this is a completely new thing for them?

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Exactly, yeah. I mean, he's, as I said, when we picked him up,

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he's actually been picked because he's had past history...

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-A good past history!

-Exactly.

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I would love to think that, you know...

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Obviously, it's going to take a while.

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It might not, but this is all new to him,

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but he'll certainly smell the girls and, you know.

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If he does start taking an interest in the females,

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what about his behaviour will tell you that he's feeling...romantic?

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He will start... It doesn't really look like a wining and dining thing, to be honest!

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He'll start chasing them and he won't leave them alone.

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He'll circle them, a bit of nipping, maybe, at the feet and the head.

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-So no flowers and chocolates!

-No, no, no!

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And he probably won't leave them alone, to be honest.

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That's one of the normal things of courtship.

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I have to say, looking at the two females now, who are down here,

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he's crept off behind a plant, they're both looking singularly unimpressed!

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That's typical.

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Yeah. It's not love at first sight!

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Well, it looks like a successful, if not entirely romantic,

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introduction to his new enclosure, but I hope everything goes well

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and that the two girls fall irretrievably in love with him.

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Thank you. Thanks.

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Earlier in the series, four keepers travelled

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deep into the Tanzanian bush to work with Tony Fitzjohn.

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Fitz is a world-renowned conservationist and runs the Mkomazi Game Reserve,

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where he's helping some of Africa's most endangered animals.

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Fitz is best known for the wild years

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he spent working with George Adamson, the Lion Man of Africa.

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They helped rehabilitate and save captive lions,

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releasing them back to the wild.

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Stories that were told in the book and Oscar-winning film, Born Free.

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There we were, sharing the lives of these incredible predators.

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We just ran like mad things for nearly 20 years and didn't stop.

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During the trip, head warden Keith Harris helped on a project

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to release hunting dogs back to the wild.

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For him, working with Fitz was very special.

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I've read books and seen films, you hear stories,

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and it's been really great to work with him, and being out here

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in the wild and amongst these animals, it's been great.

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So when he heard Fitz was visiting the UK, Keith wasted no time

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in offering him his first ever tour of a safari park.

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-Tony!

-Hi, Keith! What a treat!

-Nice to meet you.

-And you.

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-Nice to see you again.

-Bit cold?

-Yeah, a bit chilly.

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-So can I get a tour?

-Yeah. Hop in the cart and we'll take you round.

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Thanks very much.

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Like so many visitors, Pets Corner is the first stop.

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Aren't they wonderful?

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Everyone should have three or four of these in their bathroom!

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Here, the snakes are a bit more friendly than Fitz is used to.

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Wow!

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There we are. How about that?

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I have sort of 11-foot black mambas in the house.

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This is great, with the rolling hills. Beautiful.

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Next, it's up to the East Africa Reserve, home to giraffe,

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ostrich and zebra, which should be like a slice of home to Fitz.

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They look in very good shape indeed. It's a very nice scene.

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It's nice, what you see is what you get.

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If you've got to live in England, and for a guy like me,

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this'd be perfect.

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In Tanzania, Fitz has built a sanctuary

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for the highly endangered and dangerous black rhino,

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where trackers follow them to ensure they're safe from poachers.

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At Longleat, techniques are slightly different.

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I just love this guy herding the rhinos on the tractor.

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They almost look like sculptures, don't they?

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-It's very strange for me to see white rhino.

-They're very placid.

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It'd be nice to have some black rhino,

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cos there'd be a lot of cars here with punctured doors!

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I can only remember a rhino damaging a car once.

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There was a pair of rhinos mating,

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and there was a vicar going round with an old Triumph Herald with his family,

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and the female reversed, so the male up on top had to go back with her.

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He ended up sat and the whole front car just collapsed.

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The insurers said, "I don't know whether it's an act of God or what!"

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Act of rhino!

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There's one final stop on Fitz's tour to come,

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and it's up in Lion Country.

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He's certainly no stranger to these big cats.

0:20:150:20:20

Join us later when Fitz heads straight into the lions' den.

0:20:200:20:24

Pelicans are certainly not the only birds at the park.

0:20:310:20:35

Another species you might find is the sacred ibis.

0:20:350:20:39

They've only been residents here for four years, but I'm told

0:20:390:20:43

they have links back to the pharaohs and gods of the Ancient Egyptians.

0:20:430:20:48

These are definitely the kind of birds that I should be mixing with.

0:20:480:20:52

I'm up in the flamingo aviary with keeper Michelle Stevens,

0:20:520:20:55

but we're not here to see the flamingos, we're here to see the sacred ibis.

0:20:550:20:59

Michelle, there they are over there. Why are they called "sacred" ibis?

0:20:590:21:02

They were deemed sacred by the Ancient Egyptians and they were mummified and buried with them.

0:21:020:21:07

-Really?

-Yeah.

0:21:070:21:09

Now, I know they eat meat occasionally,

0:21:090:21:11

and some people compare them to vultures.

0:21:110:21:14

-Are there many similarities?

-Not really, no.

0:21:140:21:17

I mean, they have the bald head, but they will go to dead animals,

0:21:170:21:21

but not to necessarily eat the meat, but the insects that go to the meat.

0:21:210:21:26

How fascinating!

0:21:260:21:28

Michelle, thank you. We've got plenty more coming up on today's programme, including...

0:21:280:21:32

Emotions are running high in the house, as the damage

0:21:340:21:37

to the ceiling is worse than anyone thought.

0:21:370:21:41

How far is this going to go?

0:21:410:21:42

And what's more important is, how can we stop it happening?

0:21:420:21:46

I meet the grand old dame of the East African Reserve

0:21:460:21:49

and find out the secret of her long life.

0:21:490:21:53

And run for the hills, as the wild man of Africa helps out in the lion enclosure.

0:21:530:21:59

-Do you fancy releasing these?

-What, into the local village or what?

0:21:590:22:02

Back in the Great House, there's a crisis in the lower dining room.

0:22:040:22:08

Part of the ceiling plasterwork has come off,

0:22:080:22:11

and there are signs of imminent collapse.

0:22:110:22:14

This is one of seven fabulously ornate ceilings

0:22:180:22:22

added to the house in the 1870s.

0:22:220:22:25

Two years ago, a small piece of plasterwork fell down,

0:22:250:22:28

and now a gold bauble from the centre

0:22:280:22:31

of one of the gilt roundels has also broken off.

0:22:310:22:36

For Longleat's curator of historic collections, Kate Harris,

0:22:360:22:39

the big worry is that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

0:22:390:22:44

I'm very concerned, because we thought we'd tackled this problem.

0:22:440:22:49

It turns out to be a much more severe problem than we thought.

0:22:490:22:52

It's because it's unknown, whether we're going to have to take the whole ceiling to bits

0:22:520:22:57

and basically put it back together again, and the whole issue

0:22:570:23:00

of whether the plasterwork has reached the end of its shelf life.

0:23:000:23:04

Those are all unknowns at the moment.

0:23:040:23:07

So we've yet to find out just how bad the news is.

0:23:070:23:10

The damage may well have been caused by vibrations

0:23:100:23:14

from the sheer volume of traffic on the floor above.

0:23:140:23:17

So not only has the lower dining room had to be closed,

0:23:170:23:22

but also the state dining room upstairs.

0:23:220:23:25

And that's caused chaos for head guide Claire Mounde.

0:23:250:23:28

The impact, to a certain extent, has been that every day.

0:23:280:23:31

We're not quite sure what parts of the house we are going to see,

0:23:310:23:34

how we're going to rotate the visitors, how we're going

0:23:340:23:37

to get them through to see the maximum of the house

0:23:370:23:39

and still feel they've had value for money while actually some of the rooms having to be closed.

0:23:390:23:44

But now, house steward Steve Blyth needs to find out exactly

0:23:460:23:50

how bad the damage really is.

0:23:500:23:53

But first, the table laid with antique porcelain and silverware must be packed away safely.

0:23:530:23:59

Time to call in the professionals.

0:23:590:24:01

There's hardly a thing on this table that's less than two centuries old.

0:24:130:24:18

But June Windess and her army of cleaners are well used

0:24:180:24:22

to handling such delicate and priceless items.

0:24:220:24:25

When the room is clear, Steve can get to work.

0:24:340:24:38

They're setting up a scaffold in order to examine the ceiling.

0:24:380:24:42

Ken Windess, June's husband, has been called in.

0:24:420:24:46

He was the house steward before Steve and knows the building inside out.

0:24:460:24:51

-Do you want to turn him here, Ken?

-Yep. That way.

0:24:510:24:55

-First, they need to take down the roundel.

-Yep, got him.

0:24:550:25:00

Behind it is the system of supports that holds the ceiling in place.

0:25:000:25:06

OK. Explain to me how this ceiling works, Ken.

0:25:060:25:10

Basically, what you've got here is a flitch beam.

0:25:100:25:14

About 15 years ago, this beam failed, and the floor started to sag.

0:25:140:25:19

They reinforced this beam with metal.

0:25:190:25:24

What they did is they brought the beam back to its original position.

0:25:240:25:29

They've actually strapped the ceiling supports to that beam,

0:25:300:25:36

which means that what you're doing now is you're transferring any vibration from the floor above

0:25:360:25:41

directly to the ceiling, rather than going through the intermediate beam,

0:25:410:25:47

which I think could have been a major mistake.

0:25:470:25:51

So, by strengthening the beam supporting the floor above,

0:25:510:25:55

the ceiling below may have suffered.

0:25:550:25:58

This is obviously what the concern is.

0:25:580:26:01

You've got cracks like this appearing, you see?

0:26:010:26:04

This bit here is actually moving up and down.

0:26:040:26:07

That crack's actually tracking right across there, look, to this area.

0:26:070:26:12

Some of these bulbs have vibrated loose.

0:26:120:26:15

Here you are, there's a good example.

0:26:160:26:19

In fact, I'm going to go for it and take that away in case it falls on somebody.

0:26:190:26:23

For Ken, who's devoted a quarter of a century to looking after

0:26:240:26:28

this great house, it's a very sad moment.

0:26:280:26:31

It is heartbreaking when you find something like this

0:26:340:26:37

that's been up there for hundreds of years.

0:26:370:26:39

When you... You know, you do get a feeling for the house

0:26:410:26:44

as you live with it and serve it, if you like, for quite a long time.

0:26:440:26:52

So when things start breaking to bits like this, then it is sad.

0:26:520:26:57

It's...

0:26:580:27:02

it makes...it brings a lump to your throat in many ways,

0:27:020:27:05

in the fact that what's happening, how far is this going to go?

0:27:050:27:10

What's more important is how can we stop it happening?

0:27:100:27:13

I'd like to think it's going to be here in another 400 years.

0:27:150:27:19

It's going to take time and a great deal

0:27:220:27:26

of careful investigation before they'll know exactly what must be done.

0:27:260:27:30

Over the next few months,

0:27:300:27:32

estate manager Tim Moore is going to have a lot to do.

0:27:320:27:35

It's a major problem.

0:27:350:27:37

We don't know quite what our strategy is going to be.

0:27:370:27:42

With this sort of problem, in conservation terms,

0:27:420:27:45

cautious inquiry and really trying to check through detail is all-important.

0:27:450:27:50

We're going to have to take it steady, to get the experts in

0:27:500:27:54

and then tease out a solution and a strategy.

0:27:540:27:56

We don't know the cost implications.

0:27:560:27:59

We don't know quite how far we've got to go with it.

0:27:590:28:03

It's quite frankly an open-ended issue at the moment.

0:28:030:28:06

We'll be back in the house later on to follow developments

0:28:060:28:10

as the crisis unfolds.

0:28:100:28:12

This is a family tree of all the zebras here at Longleat.

0:28:210:28:25

There are 30 names on this board,

0:28:250:28:27

but the most important of all is this one, Ingrid, at the top.

0:28:270:28:31

She's the mummy of the lot of them...

0:28:310:28:33

or grandmummy, or great-grandmummy.

0:28:330:28:35

She's 30 years old this year, which is a staggering age for a zebra.

0:28:350:28:40

I'm going to meet deputy head of section Ryan Hockley

0:28:400:28:43

to find out how she's doing.

0:28:430:28:44

We're coming up to this little group of zebras now. Which one is Ingrid?

0:28:540:28:59

You can see Ingrid. She's right at the front here.

0:28:590:29:01

OK, so slightly browner coat compared to the other three?

0:29:010:29:06

Yeah, yeah. She's still got a bit of winter coat there.

0:29:060:29:08

What you tend to find is that lovely black and white striping on them

0:29:080:29:13

-is their pure kind of summer coat, really.

-Right.

0:29:130:29:16

But in the winter, certainly in our climate,

0:29:160:29:19

they do grow their coat a bit bigger,

0:29:190:29:21

and it just has this slightly brown tinge to it.

0:29:210:29:24

You can see Steph, behind, still got a bit of winter coat as well.

0:29:240:29:27

The older they are, it seems the longer they keep that brown winter coat going.

0:29:270:29:31

Obviously, Ingrid being 30 this year,

0:29:310:29:34

-she's got a lot more winter coat than everyone else.

-Now, 30 years old...

0:29:340:29:38

Presumably, a zebra in the wild would certainly never live that long?

0:29:380:29:43

No, we don't think so, Kate.

0:29:430:29:45

Lions just seem to love zebra. It's their roast dinner.

0:29:450:29:49

She looks amazingly healthy.

0:29:490:29:52

I mean, she really... It's hard to see that she looks any older than any of the others.

0:29:520:29:57

Is there any secret to her long life, do you think?

0:29:570:30:00

We have absolutely no idea. We believe that possibly she's the oldest zeb in captivity.

0:30:000:30:07

-Really?

-Yes, and possibly by a long chalk, as well.

0:30:070:30:10

Like I say, once they reach their 20s,

0:30:100:30:13

you tend to find them slowing down very quickly, to be honest.

0:30:130:30:17

You would expect to see a lot more bone exposed at her age,

0:30:170:30:21

where the muscle's fallen off.

0:30:210:30:22

I must admit, maybe in the last couple of years,

0:30:220:30:25

we've noticed her lose a fair bit of muscle mass high up on her front legs.

0:30:250:30:30

-She had these Schwarzenegger-esque muscles bulging away there a few years ago.

-Not very feminine!

0:30:300:30:36

-No, not very feminine at all. But she certainly doesn't look emaciated or skinny.

-Not at all.

0:30:360:30:42

She's not a bag of bones, by a long chalk.

0:30:420:30:43

Well, she is a credit to all your work looking after her.

0:30:430:30:47

Of course, the zebras have now left us.

0:30:470:30:49

As if to prove she is not an old lady,

0:30:490:30:51

she's practically the other side of the park.

0:30:510:30:53

But it's great to see her.

0:30:530:30:54

-May she have many happy more years here at Longleat. Thanks, Ryan.

-Thanks.

0:30:540:30:58

Head warden Keith Harris is giving Tony Fitzjohn his first-ever tour of a safari park.

0:31:030:31:10

Fitz runs a reserve in Tanzania,

0:31:100:31:13

where he is returning some of Africa's most threatened species back to the wild.

0:31:130:31:19

This is a continuation of the work he did with lions

0:31:190:31:22

alongside his mentor, the lion man of Africa, George Adamson.

0:31:220:31:25

But what will the apprentice of Mr Born Free make of Longleat's famous lions?

0:31:250:31:32

Wow, look at this. Look at this lot.

0:31:330:31:37

There are two main breeding females in here.

0:31:370:31:42

-So presumably, your wild lions, they'd be scarred and...

-Yeah.

0:31:420:31:46

It's all a bit strange to see them in such perfect condition.

0:31:460:31:49

For someone who's dedicated to their life to giving

0:31:490:31:53

animals their freedom, this is an unusual experience for Fitz.

0:31:530:31:57

It's quite strange. I have never been to a safari park before. I've never been to Longleat.

0:31:570:32:05

I have seen animals in captivity and I don't slam zoos.

0:32:050:32:11

There is a place in this paved and civilised world of ours

0:32:110:32:14

to have animals, you know, in captivity.

0:32:140:32:19

Um...

0:32:190:32:20

I'm a bit surprised they look in such good physical shape

0:32:200:32:24

and so relaxed and in such good mental shape for captive animals.

0:32:240:32:29

But I would rather have a jumbo jet waiting and pile them all in the back,

0:32:290:32:33

but then I know it is too old for most of them to go back.

0:32:330:32:36

Despite his love for lions,

0:32:360:32:38

Fitz hasn't worked with them for some time.

0:32:380:32:41

My last lioness was poisoned in the wild about two-and-a-half years ago.

0:32:410:32:46

But basically, since I moved to Mkomazi,

0:32:460:32:49

I've not worked with the animals I love so much, which are lions.

0:32:490:32:53

So everything I say here is tinged by the fact that these

0:32:530:32:57

are the big love of my life, you know.

0:32:570:33:01

It's strange not to be able to go in there and play with them

0:33:010:33:06

and stuff, which is what I always did.

0:33:060:33:09

-And do you fancy releasing these?

-What, into the local village or what(?)

0:33:200:33:25

-Or into the enclosure?

-Don't scare the locals!

0:33:250:33:28

-Straight down.

-Straight down.

0:33:280:33:31

Latch in there, and off they go.

0:33:310:33:34

-They didn't need much encouragement.

-No, no.

-And the big guy?

0:33:340:33:39

If you flick the catch over, he'll tell you off, but don't worry.

0:33:390:33:44

GROWLING

0:33:440:33:45

And just pull the slide.

0:33:450:33:47

-Oh, good boy.

-It's not much of a telling off, really.

0:33:500:33:53

He was quite good today.

0:33:530:33:54

I thought he was going to be a bit more grumpy than that. And that's it.

0:33:540:33:58

Well, I've put a few animals back into the wild,

0:34:000:34:03

but this was the quickest programme I've ever been involved in.

0:34:030:34:07

With the release of Kabir's pride done,

0:34:070:34:10

Fitz's visit to Longleat is complete.

0:34:100:34:13

But what does an African conservationist

0:34:130:34:16

make of the work Keith and his staff are doing?

0:34:160:34:19

I've always wanted to come to Longleat

0:34:190:34:21

since it opened years ago and I heard about it.

0:34:210:34:24

One, because it was a lion park, and two, because it was England,

0:34:240:34:27

it'd be interesting to see. And I've never come.

0:34:270:34:30

It's very strange.

0:34:300:34:32

I'm not meant to like animals in captivity

0:34:320:34:35

and I've spent my whole life setting animals free.

0:34:350:34:38

I come here and talk to Keith

0:34:380:34:40

and I see these animals they all care about and love so much...

0:34:400:34:43

well-managed and well-run, and where I come from,

0:34:430:34:46

so much is being destroyed. So what I'm feeling is not what I...

0:34:460:34:52

thought I'd be feeling or should be feeling.

0:34:520:34:55

This all sounds very silly, but it is a great privilege to be here too,

0:34:550:34:59

and I think everybody that comes here should feel that.

0:34:590:35:03

It's a very special place, and I hope I leave here

0:35:030:35:06

with some good friends and good memories.

0:35:060:35:08

We've come back into the house to the lower dining room

0:35:140:35:18

to meet house steward Steve Blyth and to find out what the latest is,

0:35:180:35:22

Steve, on the ceiling. And I've suddenly seen this! What a dramatic event!

0:35:220:35:28

A very frightening event, yes.

0:35:280:35:31

-Originally, we noticed the problem when one of these came loose.

-Right.

0:35:310:35:37

And after inspection, we needed to take this roundel down

0:35:370:35:42

to have a look to see what was going on.

0:35:420:35:45

So we've had all the surveyors in, all the architects in,

0:35:450:35:48

and we're moving forward.

0:35:480:35:50

Kate, our curator, has been getting lots of information for us

0:35:500:35:54

on the history of what's been happening with the ceiling,

0:35:540:35:57

and that has all come together now. Hopefully, we're ready to move on.

0:35:570:36:01

But a good bit of news is the room's open again.

0:36:010:36:03

I was going to ask. Is the whole room? You've got some scaffolding over there.

0:36:030:36:07

We've still got equipment in the room where we still have people coming in

0:36:070:36:11

and having another look at this, and, you know, what is this and what would happen here?

0:36:110:36:15

And where did this piece come from?

0:36:150:36:17

-It came from up here.

-Oh, wow!

0:36:170:36:20

-You can see we've a huge hole in the ceiling at the moment.

-Blimey!

0:36:200:36:23

Hopefully, it'll be going back very soon.

0:36:230:36:25

I imagine... ..Sorry, Kate. ..I imagine it must have had

0:36:250:36:27

a pretty dramatic effect on the staff in the house.

0:36:270:36:30

-Yeah.

-It's pretty dramatic.

0:36:300:36:32

Anything major with the house, it upsets everyone.

0:36:320:36:36

This house has been standing for so long, it is a piece of history.

0:36:360:36:40

How are you going to be able to minimise damage like this happening again?

0:36:400:36:44

That's part of what we're doing at the moment.

0:36:440:36:47

Before we do the repair, we need to know what happened, why has it happened?

0:36:470:36:52

That's what the architects and surveyors are looking at.

0:36:520:36:54

They'll report to us, and before we do any repairs,

0:36:540:36:57

-we'll be looking into the future and what needs to be happening.

-Right.

0:36:570:37:01

We've had a complete survey done of this room,

0:37:010:37:04

so once the repairs are done, we can come back in a year, 18 months,

0:37:040:37:08

measure it all again and see if we've got any movement.

0:37:080:37:12

-Yeah.

-I have to ask, the room is very empty.

0:37:120:37:15

I seem to remember there's usually a very large table here

0:37:150:37:18

with a full service on it.

0:37:180:37:20

Yeah, there's normally the big table in here, set for 20.

0:37:200:37:24

-The beautiful hand-painted...

-The hand-painted dinner service, so yeah...

0:37:240:37:29

What have you done with all that?

0:37:290:37:31

That's all safely stored away... very safely stored away.

0:37:310:37:35

-They're priceless, those plates.

-Priceless.

0:37:350:37:37

It's fantastic news that at least half the room is open again.

0:37:370:37:41

We're all happy about it, and Lord and Lady Bath are very happy about it.

0:37:410:37:45

-We've got visitors come through again.

-Good.

0:37:450:37:48

Steve, that is fantastic news. Thank you very much.

0:37:480:37:51

'Earlier in the show, I caught up with Mark Tye,

0:37:590:38:02

'who was incubating eggs from the pink-backed pelicans.'

0:38:020:38:06

These are notoriously difficult to care for, but we're all hoping

0:38:060:38:11

they'd hatch, as Mark and his staff have had an upsetting year

0:38:110:38:14

following the death of Samba, the gorilla.

0:38:140:38:17

Well, it's been a little while now, and there's some great news.

0:38:170:38:23

Four of the eggs hatched successfully,

0:38:250:38:28

leaving Mark with his hands full.

0:38:280:38:30

We're feeding currently every three hours...

0:38:300:38:33

between eight in the morning and eight at night.

0:38:330:38:36

Here you go. Here you go.

0:38:360:38:38

And we're feeding them on whole trout and whole sprats.

0:38:380:38:44

And you know, it's quite alarming how many they'll pack away in one go!

0:38:440:38:48

They can hold an awful lot. If you look at their neck,

0:38:480:38:51

it's extremely elastic.

0:38:510:38:53

As you can see, there's a whole sprat in that neck there.

0:38:530:38:58

They gain in weight by between 10% and 15% every day.

0:38:580:39:02

So that's quite a growth, and when you consider

0:39:020:39:05

that this bird here is 11 days old, and this one's 18 days old,

0:39:050:39:10

there's quite a vast difference in size, isn't there?

0:39:100:39:15

As you can imagine,

0:39:150:39:17

to come from that to that in 18 days is a pretty phenomenal growth rate.

0:39:170:39:24

But they've still got a lot of growing to do.

0:39:240:39:27

These adult birds have a wingspan of up to two metres,

0:39:270:39:31

making them one of the world's largest flying birds.

0:39:310:39:34

With such prehistoric looks, it's no surprise that pelicans have lived on Earth

0:39:340:39:39

for millions of years.

0:39:390:39:41

But the destruction of their nesting sites in Africa

0:39:410:39:44

now threatens their existence.

0:39:440:39:46

They're just all really important to us

0:39:460:39:49

and really important to the captive population.

0:39:490:39:53

Obviously, it means we don't have any birds taken from the wild.

0:39:530:39:56

These birds live an extremely long time -

0:39:560:39:59

anything between 30 and 40 years.

0:39:590:40:02

So there's an awful lot... Provided they go up to maturity,

0:40:020:40:04

there's an awful lot of breeding that can come from these birds

0:40:040:40:08

and continue to keep the captive population going.

0:40:080:40:12

With faces that only a mother could love, and of course Mark,

0:40:120:40:15

the safe arrival of these pelicans couldn't have come at a better time.

0:40:150:40:21

Things like this definitely help. This is what we like doing.

0:40:210:40:25

It's a very positive thing for us all to do.

0:40:250:40:28

And...obviously, nothing will ever replace Samba.

0:40:280:40:33

But, you know, life moves on, and this is new life

0:40:350:40:38

and this is what we have to hopefully nurture up to adulthood.

0:40:380:40:43

But I can't stand smelling of fish.

0:40:430:40:47

And believe you me, when you hand-rear pelicans, you just stink

0:40:470:40:50

of fish, permanently - no matter how my times you wash your hands, you stink.

0:40:500:40:56

And there's nothing worse than going out to the pub in the evening,

0:40:560:41:00

after you've had a shower and washed your hands five times,

0:41:000:41:03

and still getting a waft of sprat. It's not pleasant.

0:41:030:41:06

But part of the job.

0:41:060:41:10

Well, sadly, it's almost the end of the whole series, but before we go,

0:41:140:41:18

Kate and I have come up to the rhino house to say goodbye to Winston

0:41:180:41:22

and to thank head warden Keith Harris for another fantastic year.

0:41:220:41:26

-Sad, isn't it?

-It is sad, but it has been a really exciting year for Longleat.

0:41:260:41:30

Lots of new things coming in, lots of new animals being born.

0:41:300:41:34

-That's right. We've had new tigers, warthogs, which I think have been great fun.

-Yeah.

0:41:340:41:38

We've had all these births, so it's been great.

0:41:380:41:41

Even the older animals like Winston are still doing so well.

0:41:430:41:46

Great to see him still up and about, and he's...

0:41:460:41:50

Well, he's damp but enjoying the spring and the summer now.

0:41:500:41:54

Absolutely. Keith, thank you very much.

0:41:540:41:56

We, I suppose, should pack our bags and go, shouldn't we?

0:41:580:42:02

-No, the series has finished, but you two haven't, sorry.

-I don't like the sound of this.

0:42:020:42:08

-You know this is going to be horrid, don't you? What is that?!

-Winston needs his mud bath.

0:42:080:42:13

-Why?

-There's one for you.

-OK.

0:42:130:42:15

He's been in on the yard here, so he needs softness on the skin.

0:42:160:42:20

You put cream on your face. Here's Winston. Can you please...?

0:42:200:42:25

There's not many animals I'd do this for, Keith.

0:42:250:42:28

-I'm sorry, I've got to go.

-Brilliant.

0:42:280:42:32

-Here you are, Winston.

-How are you getting on over there?

0:42:320:42:35

This is your mud pack to make your skin beautiful and soft.

0:42:350:42:39

That really is it for us. We are going to be here for a while.

0:42:390:42:44

Don't even think about it, Fogle!

0:42:440:42:46

-We look forward to seeing you again soon. Bye-bye.

-Bye-bye.

0:42:460:42:50

Come on. Just a little bit.

0:42:500:42:53

Ready? Three, two, one.

0:42:530:42:55

How did she do that?

0:42:570:43:00

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:090:43:12

E-mail [email protected]

0:43:120:43:15

Longleat House is on red alert when one of the great ceilings shows signs of collapse.

Meanwhile out in the park, Ben Fogle gets the latest news on some rare pelican eggs, Kate Humble greets a rare new arrival to Pets Corner and a legend of African conservation gets a tour of the safari park.


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