With the rehearsal for Letts Safari’s annual round-up at Mamhead Park complete, we had all the pieces in place for the real deal: Annual round-up 2.0. Which is Letts Safari for herding pigeons! The goal is to get all the herbivores into pens so they can be health checked, tagged and separated - selecting many of the younger ones for other conservation projects.
We breed all the herbivores used at Mamhead Park South and at a number of other rewilding projects. Over time, we will help the larger parks in the Letts Safari Network to develop breeding programmes for the specialist herbivores, creating a circular model, while adding to the numbers of these magnificent creatures.
The herbivores at Mamhead Park include Fallow Deer, Soay, Wild Alpaca and Badger Faces. We don’t round up deer - we’re not completely mad!
Herbivores at Letts Safari are few and far between to make sure there is no over-grazing and to create the best wild conditions for these vital creatures. We stick to a maximum of one for every two acres. Letts Safari parks have to be 50+ acres to consider introducing any of these specialist creatures.
The Letts Safari round-up team 2021 was made up of five human beings and one Border Collie called Alaska.
We try to avoid using tranquilizer guns. Instead, the team run around like headless chickens for two or three days until the stubborn creatures, through a combination of exhaustion, boredom and heat, finally acquiesce and end up where we need them.
In reality, the group are a wonder to watch. They are skilled and organised. Part animal whisperer, part foot soldier, part wildlife expert. They know our first Letts Safari park like the back of their hand. But, every year we try to introduce someone new so we can pass the experience forwards.
The key to getting these wild animals into pens is to use hurdles that blend into the background. They get put off by obstacles that reflect into their eyes. You have to use a funnel as they are suspicious going through gateways or gaps they are not used to. And young herbivores will be young herbivores - like a stubborn teenager!
The key is to herd them as a group. Keeping them tight and compact. Once they split off and run in different directions you’re in all kinds of trouble - and end up starting all over again. The terrain at Mamhead Park is hilly - so we work to avoid constantly running up and down steep ground. We’re not marines!
Got any questions about rewilding herbivores - put it in a comment!
Let’s remind ourselves of where we got to in the rehearsal. Ouch!
Here’s our exhausted Border Colly bringing in the last two stragglers at the end of the round-up.
The annual round-up is a bit like football preseason, giving us a chance to have a run out while taking a closer look at the newly bred herbivores to see if any of them might be ready for first team action. The rest are traded off to other conservation projects.
We all agreed that it would be fitting to celebrate the news that LettsSafari.com’s limited beta is 250% over subscribed by adding one extra herbivore to the team. Preferably a young, home grown male. After much charging around, testing, examining and deliberation, we found our new player.
And so we released him back into the safari park.
Late in the evening of the third day we finally headed home. Exhausted and relieved that this years round-up was well and truly behind us.
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