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If you have a cat at home, keep it amused with a scratching post.
However, if your cat is a little
larger than the average moggy, that isn't going to be any use at all.
What you need is a scratching post like this.
But will it survive the lions?
Coming up on today's Animal Park...
it's a keeper's worst nightmare, as a lion tries to go over the top.
Come on. Come on, mate.
Thomas and Michelle may be giant tortoises,
but are they giant enough? A vital weigh-in suggests not.
And Ben is let loose on
40 tonnes of runaway train packed full of passengers.
-So we're just creeping up to 5mph.
There are species of every shape and size at the safari park...
But for many people, there's only one thing they come to see. The lions.
The park opened with the lions,
40 years ago and they caused a sensation.
In the ten years that we've been filming here,
we've tried a lot of different ideas to keep them busy.
At least we put it in sturdy enough.
She's coming up. Look at that. Oh, wow. She did.
-She's going for the camera.
-She stood up there. Look.
Well, this year, Ben and I have joined forces to make the ultimate
cat gym for the ultimate cats.
Over 45 metres of rope.
And three metres of solid tree trunk sunk a metre in the ground. Yes.
We're out in the lion enclosure and this is proper lion toys.
Now, guys, 20 hours of hard graft have gone into this and this is
basically the new version of the giant scratching post for the lions.
It is. Yeah. We had to go bigger and better.
OK. So we're putting the finishing touches. Sorry, I'm leaving you,
-Kate, to do all of this.
-Can you untangle this bit of rope?
So just talk us through what we've got here.
We've got this enormous post in the ground. Am I going this way?
No. Ben, you're being hopeless.
-Go round this way. See, this is why never get me involved.
Yeah. Round that way. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
That's better. That's better. OK, then. Keep going. Keep going.
-OK. So I just keep going round.
-Follow me round, Ben.
OK. I'm following you round. There we go. We're here now.
So just talk us through, Bob, what we've actually got here.
You've got about 45 metres of rope.
-And it's been wrapped round
tightly and it's sisal rope, so it's natural rope.
-So that if they do bite bits off, which they're bound to...
they can pass it through without any problems, obviously.
And you're wrapping it round there nice and tight.
I'm getting dizzy, I don't know about you.
And what about these things?
These look like fenders that are used on boats and things.
It's exactly what they are.
-We've just hung them on other lengths of rope to dangle.
And this, basically, is going to be a toy to swing on, they can jump up.
And it's quite high off the ground. It shows you how big they are.
-Yeah. That's nothing for them.
-And this is, of course, a pride led now
by one of the youngsters, by Nookie.
Kabir's not here any more.
So this will be the first time, will it, that this pride have
-taken on these giant cat toys?
-We've done the toys in here before,
but we've never done the scratching post.
That's always been in Charlie's pride, so this part of it is
-completely new to them.
-OK, Brian. I'm up here ready to take this up.
So, Brian, what do you think the big cats are going to make of this new
version, cos they've often destroyed it pretty soon after setting it up.
I think they're going to enjoy it, cos they're out
in the paddock at the moment and they're knowing what's going on.
So they're watching us, aren't they? They're keeping a beady eye.
They're going to be straight up to here.
And I don't think it'll last that long, to be honest.
-And who's most likely to come out first?
I would imagine most of the females.
I reckon the boys'll probably be last.
-What sort of height do we think? Is that good?
-That's pretty good, that one.
-That one'll be all right.
The little cubs might be able to get on to that one, as well.
I reckon Jazeera will be the one.
-Do you think?
Well, what we're going to do now is just finish off, attach that rope
nice and firmly, so they can't take it straight off the trunk
and then Bob, Brian, Ben and I
are all going to sit and watch the lions play with their brand-new toys.
Join us later.
There are over 900 animals at the safari park,
but not all of them are cute and cuddly.
The park is packed with predators of unimaginable ferocity.
Lions, like we've just seen, that could kill in an instant.
Gorillas with the strength to rip you limb from limb.
And hippos that could sink a boat.
Kate and I are certainly no wimps
and have laughed in the face of danger on countless occasions.
Can you promise me they don't eat presenters?
No. I promise.
Well, mostly. But there is one place that even
we have found too much on occasions.
Home to the smaller creatures. Pets Corner is a breeding ground for any
number of lethal creepy crawlies.
And it's not just us who lose our cool.
Today, Bev Allan is one of the most experienced and calm keepers
in Pets Corner, but ten years ago, she was the new girl and was
absolutely terrified of spiders.
She'd never even handled one.
Head keeper Darren Beasley thought it was time she and Kate
faced their fears.
How you feeling, Bev?
-A little bit scared.
-A little bit scared.
-Me, too. Come on then, Darren.
I've a horrible feeling this isn't cheese and pickle sandwiches.
No. This is Chily, our Chilean Rose tarantula.
Now, if we have a drum, roll it.
Are you ready?
And here he is.
She's awfully active.
Now, first thing, I'm going to be really mean to Bev.
Oh, it's out, anyway.
Can you hold the pot for me, just for a moment, please?
You're all right, Bev. I've got you.
Slight technical hitch, here.
Chily, where are you going?
Now, of course, this is a baptism by fire.
I can't get it. Bev, do you really fancy...
I need someone to take it off of my back. Can you get her?
Put your hand gently in front of her.
Bev has actually been cleaning it out, as well, for the last week.
-Hang on, Darren.
-I'll bend over. Be nice to me.
What do you think of that, Jordan?
She's just coming over to your hand.
I think we've gone off like Linford Christie here rather than Chily,
-the Rose tarantula. That's better.
-Are they usually this active?
I thought they sort of sat around a lot.
She normally does, where she's been in the little
sandwich pot for a couple of minutes, she's got a lot of energy.
-Have you got her?
-Bev, you are brilliant.
-Bev's doing it.
-You got her, Bev?
Well done. Oh, Bev. Fantastic.
Put your hand there, as well.
Oh, wow. That was brilliant.
Now, of course, Bev, I can say has officially passed.
Give her a pass certificate here.
A pass certificate? She's going to need a huge drink.
And we have to build on that now.
How did it feel, Bev?
-There's only one way to find out.
-Not very nice.
Do you fancy? Hold your hands out.
-I'm really scared of dropping her.
-I won't let you drop her.
-Will you do the catching on the other side?
God, somebody hold my hand, for heaven's sake.
There we go.
That's brilliant. That's really good.
Hang on. There she is.
It's not what you think, is it? You're shaking.
I'm absolutely shaking but she's quite sweet, really.
Five years later,
Kate summoned up the courage to confront her fears once again.
This time, alongside Mike Holloman
and a tarantula, by the name of Samantha.
In the years that had passed, however,
Kate's confidence hadn't grown.
Would you like to get her out?
-No, I wouldn't.
No. Actually, because I am really quite scared of her,
I don't want to hurt her.
I mean, they look quite tough, but are they?
Yeah, but they don't do very well if you drop them.
-It usually kills them.
-How can you call her sweetheart?
-Cos she's beautiful. Look.
-I mean, she's an amazing looking animal.
Oh, Mike, I really don't think I can hold her, though.
-Are you sure?
Why curly hair? They don't look... oh, she's quite active, too.
-There she is.
-Oh, no, Mike, I don't think I can do it.
Would you like to clean her out?
OK. Well, let's have a good look at her first. I'm going to admire her.
I'm not sure I can quite hold her.
What do they eat? Do they eat people?
Only if their name's Kate Humble.
No. She'll eat grasshoppers and stuff
like that in the wild, crickets.
And how do they catch them? Do they use any sort of poison?
All tarantulas are slightly venomous.
-Enough to sort of quieten their prey down.
Not actually stun them, but that sort of thing.
Right, what you do, do you want to try and put her in?
-If we do it over the bowl...
-OK. That's a good idea.
-in case she drops.
-I can't believe I'm doing this.
Go on. Put your hand in front. Go on, sweetie.
And then you can put her in.
Ooh, she's got little sort of claws on the front.
Come on, girl.
I've got a hand underneath.
Well done, Kate.
Can someone make me a gin and tonic?
You're brilliant. Thank you, sweetheart.
You're a good girl, too.
Unlike Pets Corner, the East African reserve
isn't home to anything scary at all.
In fact, its residents are a much gentler lot...
like the pair of giant African spur thigh tortoises.
But in the colder months, they're nowhere to be seen
and their paddock is deserted.
Well, apart from a few free-range guinea fowl.
So, if they're not here, where are they?
They're tucked away up in a corner of the giraffe house.
Spur thigh tortoises come from hot, dry areas of Northern Africa,
so the Wiltshire winter is far too cold for them.
During the chillier months, keeper Bev Evans brings them indoors.
Every winter, we bring our two tortoises
up from their summer paddock.
Basically, because they don't hibernate.
They just need somewhere which is reasonably warm
and dry, that we can keep them here throughout the winter months.
Bev does her best to make
their winter residence as comfortable as possible.
Well, up here, we tend to just put sand down, basically,
it's much more comfortable for them than concrete and a lot warmer.
We try and make a little heating area.
We've got two red bulbs here which will warm up the two tortoises, one
each, cos they can squabble if there is just the single bulb.
And also, we'll have a UV bulb, as well, which basically
is just like sunlight.
Because they're not out and about very much, in the winter, they tend
to stay in here a lot so we do need to give them that UV
so they can soak up the vitamin D.
When winter's over and spring is in the air, it's time for the tortoises
to leave the giraffe house and
migrate a few hundred metres across the park to their outdoor enclosure.
However, on the way, Bev has a very important health check to do.
Weighing them to make sure over the winter
they haven't lost too much weight.
With tortoises, it's hard to keep an eye on their health, but weighing
them can give us a good idea.
We can expect them to lose a little bit of weight
over winter and that isn't a worry, but we just need to keep an eye.
If it's too severe then we know we need to get the vet in.
We'll return to Bev when she finds out how her tortoises
have fared over the winter.
Earlier on, Kate and I helped Bob and Brian put up a giant
lion scratching post and now
is the moment of truth, to release the lions.
OK, Sarah, can you let them out now, please?
This is the youngest, largest and most active pride at the park.
It's ruled by two brothers, Nookie and Mr Dudley.
-Here they come.
-Yeah. Racing up.
-They're playing as well on
-the way up so that's a good sign.
-One of them's gone up the top.
Who's that up the top?
-One hitting the ball.
One hitting the ball.
Jazeera at the top, is it?
Look at the youngster behind, really unsure about what to make of it.
-Who have we got at the top?
-That's Jazeera on the top.
Jazeera on the top. Who's playing with the ball?
Look at the weight that's being put... you can see the power...
-That's virtually mimicking what they would do...
got someone else on the top here. I don't know whether you can see.
-They're stretching that rope.
-We've got two up there.
-Oh, look, look.
-Look at that.
-That's showing off.
-That's just brilliant.
"Get out the way. Let me show you how it's done!"
Look, look. There's a little cub sort of going...
"If you can do that, maybe I can get up there, too."
Look at that lion's face pulling on that ball. Absolutely blissful, that.
-I'm going to get you.
-We've got this youngster up on the side, here.
-He's taken a bit away.
-He's taken it.
He's skinned it.
He's got the innards, there.
That'll take a while to unravel.
It looks like a golf ball in there.
But look, isn't it funny? So typical, Ben, boys just lying there.
I'm exhausted now. Yeah.
Great entertainment for him, though.
Completely shredding that ball now.
Well, at least the structure is holding up, so in theory
you can just keep replacing the rope
and the toys that hang off it and this can be a permanent fixture.
He's actually pulling the stuffing
-out of that ball.
-They are, aren't they?
So those fenders managed to survive enormous yachts and boats, but they
-haven't survived your lion pride.
-No. Not lion-proof, that's for sure.
Look. He's hanging.
really wild behaviour, attacking the toys with vice-like jaws and
then disembowelling them with their five centimetre long back claws.
-He's doing the same with that.
-Oh, look. Here we go.
He's gonna skin that one.
One of them's jumping up now.
Real boxing going on.
Don't you think, Ben, that the hardest thing to imagine,
is when you see them all playing like this
like this... I mean, look at that lion.
Look at Nookie now,
with that shredded ball.
I mean, all you have to do is scale that down by what, 100 times
and it could be a domestic cat playing with a ball of wool.
It's almost frightening to think that we're sitting within inches
of animals that could kill us with one swipe of the paws
-They're showing domestic cat behaviour.
Yeah. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Well, thank you, both, very very much indeed. What a fantastic way
to spend a morning watching lions happy with their new toys.
That's well and truly destroyed.
Over in the East Africa reserve, Bev Evans is ready to weigh Michelle.
We need to keep an eye on their weight, because with tortoises,
it's one of the most essential things that you can do that gives
a really good accurate picture.
So, hopefully, she hasn't lost too much weight.
Right. That's about 23.06.
She was 23.35. She's lost a very small amount, really.
She's lost .3 of a kilogram
which over winter is kind of expected, to be honest.
So, no, I'm quite happy with that.
Weigh-in over and with no cause for concern, Michelle can complete her
journey down to the paddock.
Going to put her straight into the house.
Basically because it's a little bit cool out here.
At the moment, we'd like her to get warmed up, leave the ramp open.
If she wants to come out and graze, it's up to her, but want
to make sure she's up to the right temperature first.
Thomas the tortoise
hasn't been at the park long and has struggled to put on much weight.
So how has he fared over the winter?
Right. He's about 21.16,
looking back, isn't brilliant, because comparing it with this time
last year, he's lost weight.
And we expect him to lose weight from his summer weight,
but he's lost even more weight than this time last winter, so that
means he's not putting any on each year.
African spur thigh tortoises have similar life spans to humans,
living well into their 80s.
Thomas is currently in his teens so he should be growing.
One day, he could weigh up to 60 kilos, but the fact that he's not
gaining weight now is a real concern.
The problem, mainly, is that eventually he might just stop
eating altogether and that's a really serious problem.
Once the tortoise stops eating and doesn't have the will to eat,
you have to tube feed and that...
so we're not at that stage, at the moment.
We just need to keep an eye on
our records and make sure, eventually, he turns it around.
He may be underweight but he appears to have some energy.
This tortoise can't wait to hare around.
Thomas is already wandering around in the paddock, all over the place,
but to be honest, we'd rather him just warm up slightly,
because he's actually quite cold.
So we'll just make sure
he knows the house is open and it's there for him.
If he comes back out again, then that's fine. It's up to him, really.
Even though there's a lot of grazing here, a lot of nice grass,
we can supplement him a lot with clover and dandelions and plants,
which is very high calcium-rich food, which is perfect for Thomas.
He loves being handfed, so we come down here,
give him a lot of attention, give him a lot of hand feeding
and just get him interested. So we just want to encourage that, really.
Bev must now spend the next few months
trying to get Thomas to eat before he becomes critically ill.
Last year, Ben took to the water. He weighed anchor for his maiden
voyage in the park's newest vessel, alongside Bill Lord,
head of the tour boats and known to most simply as the Admiral.
-Forward gear. You're out of gear.
Don't have it out of gear or you're going to go... Don't panic.
-Oh, you've stopped the engine.
They made it back to dry land, but this year, one of Bill's
colleagues has a challenge for Ben.
The narrow gauge railway is one of
the most popular attractions and they recently acquired a brand-new engine.
Train driver Simon has bravely let Ben drive his new pride and
joy today, but will he know his dead man's handle from his smoke sack
and avoid a total train wreck?
It's very much like a car, but there's no steering wheel.
And we only use one gear. A forward gear and a reverse gear.
OK. Another more important question.
-Does this have a horn?
Please practise. Yes.
-Yes. We like that.
-No-one's getting in our way, are they?
And what's the maximum speed we can take this to?
-It will seem faster.
-It will seem faster.
-Maybe we can go for seven.
-Release the handbrake, please.
-Now I'll check to see.
-Platform is clear.
-Two toots on the whistle... the horn, rather.
-HE TOOTS HORN
Lovely. That's just great.
How's that? It's quite
strange doing the accelerating with your hands, not your foot.
I kind of feel I want to do that. Are we happy with this speed?
I think that's quite sensible, at the moment, actually.
So we're doing about 3mph or so.
3mph. That's fine.
And presumably, I mean, the track here is one and a half miles long.
-Is that right?
-About one and a quarter, actually.
-One and a quarter.
-So we're just creeping up to 5mph.
-You just passed a sign that said BT.
-I want you to do a brake test.
-A brake test.
-By that brake, about 20 pounds.
-Now, can you feel the brakes coming in?
It's very cosy in here, isn't it?
Yes. It's nice today but on
a cold day you've got to be a bit careful about condensation.
You've got to wipe the windows if you've got the door shut.
Will you look around the back of the train and see
if it's following nicely? No arms and legs. Nobody hanging out.
Yeah. No. It all looks good. So what's its maximum speed?
-What can you get up to in here?
-The gear lever is
marked up for four gears and there are four gears there.
We only use second. I'd imagine this would do 15mph, easily, in top gear,
but it is not intended for that.
We've got some little deer in there.
We see those every day and we keep a keen interest in them.
-Are they completely wild?
-They're not quite part of the safari park.
-Isn't that amazing?
-Yeah. It's lovely.
-You see everything on here.
-You do, indeed.
-Now, we're coming up to a bend.
And I want you to keep a close eye on the speed cos this is about
the tightest bend. We go through 180 degrees here and in to a tunnel.
So, what sort of speed do you think we want on here?
I think you need to get down to about 4.5mph and maintain it.
-Because the gradient will toll against you.
We have a train full of passengers.
-Must be about 40 tonnes on the back, I reckon.
OK. Here we go. Ready. Good speed.
Absolutely smashing. HORN BLARES
Wow. That's pretty good, isn't it?
You've even got lights on the front of the train.
When we pass the pelican sign, I'd like you to ease
the throttle a bit and keep the speed at about 5mph.
OK. You must have seen some funny things over the years.
We have seen some funny things.
I like seeing Nikko, the gorilla...
-particularly as the ducks land on his island and eat his food.
He comes at the ducks like King Kong.
-It's really good.
-So it's a miniature railway but with a big railway
sort of safety standards checklist.
This is a great system here.
It's one of the most sophisticated outside of a main line railway.
Isn't that amazing?
-Did you always want to drive trains?
-I'm afraid I did.
Yes. And another sound whistle sign because we've got...
There's the turkey. Turkey!
You've got a full platform here. Lots of people.
We have, indeed. Lots of people.
Keep going, very gently.
How much further? Just up to this point here, presumably?
A little bit further and start to apply the brake.
-Fantastic. Thank you very much. Thank you.
-It's a pleasure.
It's been a few months now since Bev weighed Thomas
and became concerned he was underweight. Well, Kate joined her
today to get the latest, armed with a few tasty morsels.
We've got a bucketful of dandelions,
which tortoises seem to love, don't they?
-They do and it's the best thing for them, as well.
Yeah. Its naturally very high in calcium and it's perfect for them.
I don't know how much he's eaten this morning.
We'll see if he starts to tuck into these dandelions.
So this should be like putting
a great big bar of chocolate in front of someone. Absolutely irresistible.
There we are. He's going for it.
But if you compare him to Michelle, where Michelle would go in, bite
something and just take a lot in at a time, he'll take two, three bites
and just struggle to eat it.
Basically, we don't think he's got the best eating action
action compared to Michelle who just demolishes anything in her path.
Yeah. Looking at her jaw there, she's eating, it's almost like
a pair of secateurs, isn't it?
She's sort of really cutting through that vegetation, effortlessly.
Whereas he looks a little bit gummy, doesn't he, almost, like he's sort of
isn't biting through quite as effectively as her.
It could possibly be the way they've been brought up.
You know, Michelle came from a lawned garden.
-Thomas came from a patio garden. They're both ex-pets.
So she might be more used to browsing and grazing and
he was more used to being handfed, so it could be a behavioural thing.
Or it could be something to do with his beak, but we've just got
to keep an eye on it, really.
What's the plan today with him?
We weighed them back in March, now we want to weigh them
again. Just Thomas, really. We're not worried about Michelle.
So to see if this is physically affecting his weight.
Yes. Yeah. And really, with tortoises, weight
is the main thing you can check to make sure they're doing all right.
Well, Tom Tom... so we can't weigh him here?
No. We haven't got the scales or facilities up here, so we're just
going to pop him down and weigh him down in the yard.
OK. Well, come on then, chum. Shall I do the lifting?
He certainly doesn't seem to be underweight, do you, mate? Crikey.
There we go.
I'm going to give you some of that to keep you busy on the journey.
Come on, mate. There we go.
Oops, sorry, Bev.
Right. Can you remember what he was last time?
Yeah. I've got it written down. He was 21 kilograms - 21.16.
-He's put on weight.
-Yeah. So 21.16 to 21.46 is actually doing really well.
-Cos I was expecting him to either be the same or worse.
Cos to be honest, he hasn't really eaten a lot since he's come out
of winter and started to pep up a bit. But that's good.
That's very good news.
So despite the fact he's not eating quite as ferociously as Michelle,
you're not worried about him, healthwise, now.
We will weigh him throughout the year, keep an eye on him.
He should go up and up and up in the summer.
It's the winter when they possibly lose weight which is the norm.
So, as long as he keeps carrying on going up,
I don't see too much of a problem.
-We'll keep an eye on things like his beak and general appetite.
Just make sure he's eating all right.
Well, that's very very good news, Tom. Keep eating those dandelions.
Thank you very much indeed, Bev.
I'm delighted that he's so healthy.
And we've got lots more coming up on today's programme.
It's Ben's turn to be a scaredy-cat.
-If you get back.
-Hey, go on!
OK. This is rather a tense moment.
And two keepers push themselves to the limit to find one of Britain's
most endangered bats.
But first, we're going to look back
at some of the times that Kate and I have been incredibly brave.
If I looked a little bit scared of spiders earlier in the programme,
you haven't seen anything yet.
Wow. That's a powerful kick that she's got there.
Ben has almost needed a new pair of
trousers on countless occasions since he's been on Animal Park.
-She's generally the angry one.
But, like me, it's often been the smaller creatures that have been
the most terrifying and once again,
Darren Beasley was on hand with his creepy critters.
If I lift this, you'll see one of my
favourite, favourite handling animals.
-Oh, my golly.
-Do you like those?
-These are death's head cockroaches.
-What are they called, sorry?
-Death's head cockroaches.
The markings on the outer shell are meant to look a bit like a skull.
I think you need a vivid imagination for that, but we've got adults,
sub-adults and I've just seen babies. See the little babies.
You're so excitable about cockroaches.
I love these because they're very handlable and they do make you
feel "erghh" and a lot of people feel very uncomfortable around them,
but they're great to show children.
There's nothing to be scared of a bug. This bug cannot hurt me.
It can't sting, bite, anything?
-That one's coming out.
-Of all the hundreds of species
of cockroach in the world, only a few cause problems,
only a few cause germs and eat on the rotten food.
-These come from the tropical world.
And they eat leaf litter, like worms.
They eat all stuff on the forest floor.
Are there lots of different types of cockroaches?
There are, hundreds and hundreds.
And they've got some amazing facts about them.
If I give you that. Go on, be brave.
Oh, Darren, don't.
Sorry. No no, I'm going to be brave.
Be brave. I'll do one now.
I want to tell you the most important fact of these
is that they're quite heavy.
You think? They're fairly big bugs but actually,
these would survive a nuclear war.
God forbid we ever have one.
They've been around for millions of years.
I can feel all their little legs and things.
Well, if you don't like these, you'll need the gloves now
because I'm going to ask... Julie!
Julie's outside with something else.
Something else. It can't be worse than that.
These are nice.
-These are nice.
-Let's put him in there. Off you get.
Julie's got something else that lives on the forest,
the tropical floor of the forest.
Another nice box of...
-It's a box of tricks in here, I'm afraid.
-What have we got?
-Oh, one of those!
Looks like a small snake, doesn't it? But it's not, it's a millipede.
You can tell that because it's got hundreds... I don't say thousands.
Does it not have the thousand then?
Hundreds of little legs and in fact, the millipede that's recorded with
the most legs has roughly around 700 legs, so not even one, 000.
But there's only one thing
that's more scary than a creature with 700 legs.
And that's being locked in a room with nearly 30 bats in the dark...
which is exactly what poor old Ben and Darren had to do
when the Egyptian fruit bats first arrived at the park.
So we've got two boxes here and there's some in both.
Some in both. I'll open the bottom slider cos I think they're probably
least likely to dash out that one.
OK. I'm a little bit nervous. They're not dangerous, are they?
Not at all. I mean, they have got sharp teeth.
-They're fruit eaters.
-OK. They don't suck your blood, then.
There is some bats in South America that do that.
These don't do it. If you're a banana, you might be in trouble.
So they exclusively just eat fruit, do they?
Maybe a bit of meat protein, some bugs and flowers, whatever they
can get. Wonderful sense of smell. And in fact, they pong a little bit.
I was just going to say...there's quite a strong smell around now.
Lucky you can't smell that at home.
You're a braver man than me, I must say. Do you like bats?
I have seen these and handled these. We sex these.
This is going to be... here we go.
This is going to be a male group. Here we go, here we go.
I can hear it. Look at that.
-How about that?
-Look at its little face.
They really do look like kind of rats or mice with their faces.
Mice. Yeah. You're fine.
-Sorry. I'm very brave, actually.
There we go. There's another one.
It's not true. They will not land in your hair.
They've got fantastic echo location. Aren't they active?
Is this a good sign that they're flying around?
This is super. Lots of energy.
They should go and eat and drink now.
And what we'll do is we'll probably leave this open. Here's another one.
-Is it coming out?
-Yeah. Are you coming out, my friend?
You can see him just there. We'll leave them in peace now.
Let them settle in and we'll see how they're getting on later on.
But fruit bats aren't the only ones at the park.
British bats have been banging
around the belfries of the great house for centuries.
And the keepers have been monitoring them.
Over half of all British bat species are now under threat
and several have now been declared extinct.
Keepers John Ovens and Alexa Fairben want to know as much as they can
about the UK's bats to keep their visitors informed.
So they've travelled to Cheddar Gorge, where bats are thriving.
Their guides, John Hill and Roger Martindale.
We'll get you kitted up and off to see the bats.
The two types of bats that John and Alexa will see today are the lesser
and greater horseshoe varieties.
But to see them, the keepers will have
to get into some awkward spaces.
Lesser horseshoe bats are one of the most vulnerable species,
with only a few hundred left.
To put it into perspective back at the park,
the Amur tigers are probably less at risk than these bats.
They're now extinct in the South East of England
but are hanging on in the South West.
So the ones in this cave represent
a significant number of the population.
And Roger monitors them very carefully.
When we're in roosts like this,
what we try and do is use a red filter on the torch.
You can actually observe them for quite a long time with that on.
Whereas if you use white light,
that's something that the bats are aware of and they'll fly off.
So when we're observing them we try to give ourselves
the best opportunity to count them and things like that
so we can see if there's any trends,
changes in population, population crashes and things like that.
Despite living in dark caves,
bats don't actually have much better eyesight than we do.
They hear where they're going by emitting a high frequency sound,
which bounces back to them off obstacles or insects when hunting.
So to hear the lesser horseshoes,
you need a bat detector in your utility belt.
So what the detector does is it takes that sound and it converts it back
down to our hearing range so that we can actually physically hear it.
-STRANGE GURGLING NOISES
So it's a really important mechanism for them and even
in pitch-dark conditions, they can find incredibly small things.
You know, I've found them in mine systems,
roosting on a piece of string.
Now, that's how clever the echo location systems are,
they can actually physically find - in a 36-mile long cave system -
they can find a piece of string.
-He's going back again.
We'll be back with John and Alexa as they scale new heights to find
one of the biggest bats in Europe.
This series, some of the biggest stars of the show have been the five
new baby otters and I was lucky enough to be introduced to them.
-I can't get over how...
I'm lost for words. Absolutely lost for words.
-How old are they?
-They're eight weeks now.
Coming on really really well.
Two out of the five were very small in comparison to the others.
They've all caught up. They've all got their eyes open.
It's almost time now for them to be going outside.
And returned when the feisty little bundles
were sexed and health checked.
This is a real squirmy little one.
-We'll send you back in a moment.
The keepers were delighted to have three boys and two girls and they
went from strength to strength.
He's a boy.
But now, Kate has gone over to get the latest.
I'm here at Pets Corner with head of section Darren Beasley,
by the otter enclosure, with lots of very happy adult otters.
But, Darren, there's been a bit of a tragedy.
Yeah. I'm afraid it's been a pretty dire time down here.
We had five babies born to Rosie and rather sadly, in the last fortnight,
we've lost all five.
They all passed away.
The last one passed away just the day before yesterday
and it was pushing 12 weeks old.
They were weaning. I think, obviously,
we've had the vet look seriously and the initial thing that we're
thinking is for some unknown reason, mum and dad decided they were no
longer going to supply the milk, that wasn't going to be available.
It's really sad even to talk about
because as a keeper, these animals are in your charge.
You know, you want to do always
what's best for them and to have no control over something like that...
We have this policy where we will only pull animals for
rearing or something like feeding if it is the very very last resort.
We had to do it with these. Even then, they were too weak.
That's extraordinary because Rosie has proved to be such a good mum.
I mean, you've had successful litters and maybe not all the cubs surviving,
but successful litters for the last three years, haven't you?
I totally agree and the strange thing is that of...
a good pair of parent otters, nobody could be better than these.
They're proven. They've got the track record. He is such a good dad.
He takes food in to all the youngsters and for the first ten, 11
and 12, up to nearly 12 weeks, that's what they were doing.
And so, in that fortnight, cos we originally, we looked for infections
and bacteria. There's nothing.
-So the vet presumably did post mortems
-and they proved to be absolutely healthy animals.
-It wasn't a worm.
The organs were all fully formed so it wasn't a congenital thing.
It's obviously that this handover from milk to solids
just for some unknown reason, this time hasn't happened.
I know Rob, who looks after the otters, he's devastated.
He must be absolutely devastated.
Always, with animals, you're on this rollercoaster,
up and down with emotions.
We're on rock bottom now with these and lo and behold,
what did they go and do yesterday? They start mating again.
So, already, they're thinking,
animalwise, oh, well, that's happened,
this is over, let's get on, our mission in life is to carry on.
So, anyway, they're thinking of the next litter now, already. And so,
I've got to put some silver lining on this because we felt so helpless.
-I felt... We wanted to do something and
just couldn't and failed miserably.
Let's hope the next ones prove that it was a glitch or it was a blip.
Well, Darren, I'm sort of lost for words, really, cos
as you say, it's been so successful and this is a wonderful home for them
and you look after them all so beautifully, you all do.
So our condolences to you and to Rob and to everyone here at Pets Corner
and let's hope they continue mating
and next year will, once again, be a proper successful otter year.
We'll keep our fingers crossed.
Back at Cheddar Gorge, keepers Alexa
and John are risking life and limb to find the greater horseshoe bat.
It's quite a climb but it's worth it.
10% of the entire UK population is believed to live in this cave.
It's too dangerous for public access
and was only discovered about 100 years ago.
The limestone stalactites create the perfect conditions for
one of the largest bats in Europe to call this place home.
You can see the size of these ones.
-I'm quite taken with how big they were,
compared to the ones we saw earlier on.
Yeah. Now, they will use this site all year round.
So they use it for hibernation,
use it for general roosting and they also use it for maternity, as well.
So it's a really important cave system, all year round.
All species of British bat live on a diet of insects.
And they might be small but they're certainly hungry and can eat up to
3,000 insects a night.
You would think that there were plenty around to sustain them,
but sadly, bats are endangered in this country.
The greater horseshoe's population's
estimated to have gone down 90% in the last 100 years.
And it's all down to human intolerance.
There's lots of terrible stories about bats flying into your hair.
They're always tied in with witchcraft and vampires
and dark things. So general intolerance.
Also, mass use of insecticides.
Again, we're intolerant of insects so we take away the bats' food supply.
But at Cheddar, they've been
actively trying to boost bat numbers and they've been very successful.
We monitored 40 in hibernation and what, was it nine years ago, John?
When I first started, there was 40.
There was 40 and this year we counted 427 in hibernation.
So you can see the numbers have gone up significantly.
Now that's not due to better accounting.
It's just the fact that the landscape's improved,
some of the conservation methods around the area have improved.
The change in farming practices has helped the insect numbers
which the bats critically feed on.
If we've got bats in our gardens,
what can we do to get more bugs in our garden?
I think one of the critical things you can do is
the encouragement of native plants within your garden.
Rather than going for a Leylandii hedge, you may want to plant
a native species that will have much more association with insects and
therefore you've got a better chance of getting bats in your garden.
As dusk falls, the team head out of the caves with bat detectors
at the ready to observe these very special creatures,
as they come out for their evening feed.
So we're here outside the roost of the greater horseshoes,
but we're also picking up, at the moment, lesser horseshoes and
common pipistrelles, as well, so there's quite a lot of bat activity.
So that one... TAPPING SOUND
..that's a common pipistrelle.
That warbling one is a greater horseshoe.
And I think you've got on yours, John, some lesser horseshoes.
Obviously, people can buy these but would they be able to use one
in their garden without any training, or do you need to have
a bit of knowledge on what different bats make different sounds?
There's lots with just a little bit of guidance and going on a bat walk,
you would pick things up quite quickly.
Armed with a wealth of new bat facts, Alexa and John can return
to their bat cave in Pets Corner
with plenty of new information for the visitors.
'Fear is a funny old thing.'
Ooh, she's got little sort of claws on the front.
'We're often afraid of the most harmless and placid of creatures,
'but in some cases, our fear is well-placed,
'like with big cats, for example.'
-Who have we got in here?
-This is Shouri.
-Oh, my gosh.
SNARLING Over the years,
we've discovered that filming with lions CAN go badly wrong.
The keepers that look after the lions and tigers need nerves of steel to
work in close proximity to these powerful beasts...
with suitable protection, of course.
When Ben joined Bob Trollope for the routine task of collecting lion poo,
to check for worms, things became anything but routine.
-This is Charlie's pride, isn't it?
-This is Charlie's pride.
Charlie and six females just a short distance away from us.
I was going to say, they are a matter of 30 feet away.
Yeah. It's a bound away. You know, they could obviously get us.
We've got all the doors open so that
we can jump in to any of the vehicles.
We've all got vehicles. We've got two extra patrol vehicles here
because we're actually near them.
OK. I suppose we have to find some first, as well.
We know that Charlie did leave us a little something earlier,
-so we know where it is.
-Just down there... So just a case of picking it up.
I've got some gloves on so this'll be OK. Am I OK to go closer?
-Yeah. You're fine.
Yeah, I'll keep an eye on him while you're picking up...
-If you get back.
-Hey! Go on!
OK. This is rather a tense moment. One of the lions has just got up.
Obviously, when you bend down you're vulnerable, so that's why,
obviously, we've got all this security.
I feel even more vulnerable now.
But my experience with the lions
paled in comparison with Kate's experience
with Charlie and his girls, a few years earlier,
which even caused big brave Bob Trollope to break into a sweat.
-Is that him there?
-That's Charlie. Yeah. He's a four-year-old male.
-Right. His pride of six females, you say.
-Yeah. Six females.
And Charlie, is that roughly the structure you would get in the wild?
-That many females?
-That is a nice-sized pride. Yes.
Oh, dear. The feed wagon's broke down.
THEY LAUGH Shall I drop one down?
-Better not, just in case the lions come over.
ENGINE FAILS TO FIRE
We've potentially got a problem now
cos it doesn't sound like the feed wagon wants to start.
ENGINE TURNS OVER
We've still got quite a bit of meat on. We didn't chuck it all out,
-so they're potentially just waiting for more meat.
Craig is doing a grand job. He's keeping them away.
No. It's not going to work, is it?
RADIO CRACKLES 'Yes?'
'We've come across a problem. The feed wagon's broken down.
'In the middle of Charlie's pride.
'Could you come and assist, please?'
With the distress call put into deputy head warden Ian Turner,
the gravity of the situation quickly sunk in.
It would now be a major operation to get Bob and Kate
out of the enclosure safely through a field of hungry lions.
What's going to happen now?
I'll tow you through.
We're going to be towed out.
This is a very dangerous moment,
-actually, cos someone's got to get out to put the tow rope on.
-Craig. Have you got a row rope handy?
If you just look through here...
what's happening now, which is
quite terrifying really is that someone's going to have to get out...
Ian's getting out...
and he's going to put a tow rope on here.
If I shout, get back in, cos we've got three or four behind us.
I'll look at these two, if you like.
Yeah. I'll keep an eye on these two.
Luckily, they've got some meat so they're a bit distracted.
They're still keeping an eye on us. Look, can you see that female there?
Keeping an eye on everything.
-Female coming up behind us!
-Just be careful, Craig.
Hey, hey, hey, come on.
I wonder if one of the car breakdown services would be prepared
to come and do this...
with a pride of lions. What do you reckon, Bob?
-Well, they'd be a very brave patrol person.
-It would, wouldn't it?
It would be quite a challenge. She's coming right in under the car.
-I'd like to see the fourth emergency service in here.
-We're actually going.
Ooh, going to be a little jerky now. We're just trying to...
-trying to get started.
-We'll just chuck this out.
-You can see they're coming straight over.
Here they come. Here you are, girls.
That's it. Feed wagon's going.
We're going. We're up and running.
Slow down a bit, John.
-There's one more bit.
That's it. We can actually be towed into a safe area now.
That was quite an excitement.
Well, Bob, thank you very much.
-I have to say that not at any time did I feel in danger.
-There's one trying to get out in Mfue's pride.
-Oh, my word.
Craig, get in there and push him back.
No, no, stop. Stop!
-Lacani, come on! Come on, mate.
HORN HOOTS LOUDLY
-What an affair.
What's happened is because we actually broke down in there,
Mfue's pride are getting anxious cos they can see what's going on,
they can see that the other pride are being fed.
And they haven't been fed.
Young Lacani, which is a young male,
bit ambitious, he obviously thought...
-He'll jump over and steal their lot.
Even though Mfue and Charlie's prides are neighbours,
they must be kept separate.
If they met in the wild, they'd fight to the death.
So if Lacani had made it over the fence, it could have been fatal.
If he'd have come over the fence when he was up to
and jumped over, he would have still been in a safe area.
Either way, if he'd come left or right, he'd have been
in an area where, once we'd gone into his section,
we could have opened gates and he would have followed back through.
The worst scenario would have been if he'd jumped over the fence
and climbed over the next fence and come into the first section pride
and then we'd have had a massive fight between the lions.
Thankfully, due to the quick thinking of the keepers
and their reaction to a potentially very dangerous scenario,
all the keepers and the lions were safe and sound.
But while Kate coped courageously with the situation, let's see how
her nerves are doing now because we're heading back to Pets Corner
to confront her once more with her biggest fear.
Well, Bev, ten years ago when we first started on Animal Park,
can you believe that you would have been doing this as confidently
-as you are now?
I never thought I'd be doing this.
It's taken a long time just to get my confidence up,
being able to work with them and hold them.
She's got a lot of energy.
-Have you got her?
-Bev, you are brilliant.
-Bev's doing it.
-Got her, Bev?
Oh, Bev, fantastic! CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Literally, we've seen some of that
old footage of you and you were shaking like a leaf and
I have to also say that I have full sympathy for you and empathy because
both of us have struggled with animals over the years.
These, like Bev, I'm exactly the same.
It's spiders for me and I remember doing a piece with one of the
-Chilean Rose tarantulas with Darren. Do you remember?
And I was sitting there with it on my hand and it was very very still
like that and it was kind of fine and then it started to move up my arm
and I just said, "Darren, Darren, Darren, you've got to take it off!"
I had to go and have a cry behind one of the enclosures.
I'm really impressed with you, Bev.
-It was a triumph but it is one of those things.
Lots of people, like you and me, are scared of spiders.
But how brave are you feeling today?
I'm actually not feeling that brave, really.
Are you not? I will if you will.
OK. How are you going to pass it from me to you? OK, Bev.
-Are you going to have a go? Yeah.
-Yeah, go on.
-I might just have to hold...
-I'll take it very quickly.
We want to prove that...
-There goes the foot.
-That's brilliant. Well done.
-And then I'll put my hand there.
Oh! I don't like that move.
-OK. There we go.
-We did it.
Aren't we brave presenters?
Not half as brave as Bev.
Bev, you're amazing.
Thank you very very much.
I'm a bit croaky.
On that note, that's all we've got time for.
Here's what's coming up on the next Animal Park. Let's get out of here.
There's unease in the rhino house as Marashi is taken ill.
I think she's very very poorly.
The bats get in a flap as Kate serves up some tropical delights.
And Bob and Brian have a falling out with their tigers.
Subtitles by RED BEE MEDIA LTD