Sometimes you just need a Coati to dump himself on your head, grab fistfuls of your hair with invasive, muddy claw paws. For said Coati to be called Diego. For him to mercilessly start digging away the sleeves of your coat to get to your concealed wrist and the delectable perfume you were foolish enough to wear. Sometimes you just need to realise that you’re not so important, you are actually quite trivial… A pair of Coatis have just managed to mug you of grapes without you getting so much as a snuggle.
12 hours later, here I am, fuelled by a giant bag of Drumstick Squashies, driven half-mad by my need to blog before bed. Blog a sales pitch no-less, without any form of payment for it, just so you can all start frantically scouring for cheap deals to go on a ‘Meet the Animals Experience’ at North Somerset Bird of Prey Centre. (NSBOPC from hereon-in) because it was frankly, rejuvenating? Hilarious? Wunderbar? The Japanese have a word for that which is indescribable about being in nature, yugen. I like the strange way it seems to fill up my throat when I say it. We are all aware that the universe, in its abundance, is so profound that the emotions triggered when we try to contemplate it are too locked-in to articulate. NSBOPC will give you a shot of Yugen that will sustain you longer than that usual caffeine fix.
We had one hour to complete a meet and greet with 3 designated sets of animals, no choice in the matter, although I sent a simpering email begging for raccoon time and was kindly accommodated. 20 minutes per zone. Just the right time to interact with and learn things about them. Spoiler alert: Owls are not wise! The brain of the European Eagle owl only takes up 5% of its head! So that handsome Hercules you can see, has a brain the size of a grape! Which seems impossible to believe when your soul seems to be scrutinised by his unflinching stare.
Luke and Leia, the raccoon siblings, were just incredible, the Chuckle Brothers of the sanctuary. Luke scoffing food voraciously, from a pouch held securely by our guide Leanne, and Leia playing it coy. She surprised us by appearing at Georgia’s ankle and giving it a little sniff and tug. She obviously wasn’t impressed as she retreated to her nest box and settled for watching us at a safe distance. Georgia got two nose boops from Luke. Two. 2 to my 0!
If, like me, you worry about the impact your presence has on animals know this: all animals kept at NSBOPC have a longer life expectancy there than in the wild; many are rescue animals, none are treated like performers. Leanne informed us that as part of enrichment she had clicker-trained Leia to request food by outstretching her arms and Luke to twirl. She did not bring the clicker in with us or try to make them do either thing, despite us all knowing that we would have marvelled at it. Also, no cameras in enclosures, all you possessions must be put in boxes.
We got our experience on Groupon, otherwise it’s £125 for 2. Pricey, but sometimes us zoophiles (with an emotional attachment to animals) have to support ethical businesses to see animals in a manner that doesn’t leave us with gnawing guilt. Less selfies. More care.
NSBOPC only open to the public 6 days a year, admission £4.50 for adults and £3.50 concessions and the next open day is Sunday March 4th. It’s already in our calendar!