Someone special to me had their birthday recently, and I asked her how she wanted to spend it. She answered without any hesitation, that she wanted to see some elephants. This may seem an easy enough request, as one would assume that if you go to the zoo, you would find them, but that is not the case. She explained to me that they were no longer in the London Zoo, indeed there are now not many zoos in England that house them.
I thought that I would be scouring the country to track down these elusive elephants, but not so, after looking on the web, I discovered that Howletts at Bekesbourne have them, and as I live very near to this zoo, just outside of Canterbury, it was going to be very easy for me to grant her wish.
John Aspinall was the founder, he bought Howletts in 1957, and he started it off with his own family comprising of, a capuchin monkey, a tigress, and 2 Himalayan bears. He knew the art of breeding, and so his collection grew, so in 1973, he also acquired Port Lympne, which is near to Dover. The public was first allowed to visit Howletts in 1975, and then a year later in1976, Port Lympne.
Howletts has a variety of monkeys and baboons, and as with many of their animals, they are an endangered species. Their achievements with gorillas are renowned around the world, and they attribute their success to giving their species privacy and ensuring that bonds of trust and respect between the animal and their keeper are established.
In the cat family, there is the Indian Desert cat, which closely resembles our domestic cat, and then her larger cousin, the Clouded Leopard. The majesty of the Tiger is breathtakingly arresting, although when we viewed them sunning themselves in their enclosure, they seemed most unconcerned by their onlookers.
These, for me, were the most interesting of the animals, but there are so many more, including snakes, badgers, wolves, wild dogs, rhinoceros, antelope and deer, but to name a few.
For us, the elephants were the stars of the show, and we spent some considerable time watching them walk slowly about swishing their trunks. It was amusing to see the baby elephant attempting to lift a piece of a tree branch, almost as big as himself with his trunk. He got it successfully after much manoeuvring, only to drop it down into the mud, whilst his protective mum looked on. In the end, he walked off in disgust, with her walking close behind him. How wonderful mother nature is, and how close the mother child bond is with animals as well as humans.
If you enjoy seeing animals, I would recommend Howletts to you. As well as the animals, they also have refreshment areas, and a children’s playground, so it’s an ideal place to visit during the summer holiday.
For inquiries and tickets, please visit: https://www.aspinallfoundation.org/howletts/