The secret world beyond the safari

Posted by: Jenny Middleton
Posted on: 7th April 2017
Posted in: Animals, Conservation, Native Species

small-mammals

When you’re next looking out on our safari drive, or taking a stroll around our foot safari, have a think about the animals that you can’t see – the little creatures, living right beneath our rhino’s feet, or secretly sharing a swim with our tapir. We’re talking about our resident small mammals. They’re not part of the collection and you won’t find them in the guidebook, but they make the safari park their home anyway – because who wouldn’t want to spend all day here!

We know about these elusive animals because of the work we do with the National Biodiversity Network. In order to see how well our native populations are doing we take the time to monitor certain areas that we know make lovely habitats. Many small mammals are nocturnal and very VERY good at staying hidden, so we can’t simply count how many we see. To get around this we set up little temporary homes that act as humane traps. Don’t worry though, any animal that finds its way into one of our traps is treated to some lovely soft bedding, food and a predator free night. Like a posh mammal hotel!

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Creating temporary homes

We set our humane traps in the late evening. As we said, the small mammals we’re looking to monitor such as voles and mice are nocturnal and they love to stay under cover of trees and long grass. So that’s exactly where we headed to get the best opportunity of discovering these animals. Next time you’re gazing out at our tapir, sitatunga and capybara habitat, you can see exactly the sort of habitat we were looking out for.

This is a new site for 2017. Last year we focused our mammal monitoring on the Wild Trail with excellent results. This year we’re moving across the lake to a new area. With much less disturbances for the animals it’s going to be interesting to see how the population does.

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Discovery time

Early the next morning is when the real excitement began! After a short stay in Hotel Safari, we were able to open up the traps and see which species of small mammals we have living here! We need to find out the species, the age and the sex of each animal we find so we do get a brief moment of bonding time. Releasing the animal from the traps into a clear bag allows us to see them clearly and get all this important information before releasing them back into the undergrowth.

So what did we find!

Well we were privileged to find, one wood mouse, two little bank voles, and the extremely mysterious common shrew. From this small venture we were able to get a much better idea of which species we have in our surroundings and this helps us estimate our population size.

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All the data we collect is submitted to the National Biodiversity Network where it contributes to research that paints a picture of our environment. You can get involved! Help us contribute to this important work by joining us on a mammal monitoring excursion, a bat walk or even our 2017 BIOBLITZ! If you’d like to find out more, visit our 2017 BIOBLITZ event page here  or get involved by emailing; safari.park@knowsley.com. Come along and see what you’ll discover!

Article by: Jenny Middleton

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