zoo days

The documentary series following daily life atBritain’s biggest zoo concludes this week.Chester Zoo is home to 7,000 animals from 400species and is visited by more than a millionpeople each year. The zoo has some of the mostexperienced keepers in the business, workingalongside a full-time veterinary team with a fullyequipped animal hospital on site.From day to day, vets Steve Unwin and JamesChatterton never know what to expect. They maybe called upon to anaesthetise an Indonesianbabirusa pig so he can have his tusks trimmed, orthey may have to operate on dangerous andcunning mandrills. It is all in a day’s work for thevets and veterinary nurses based at the zoo’sAnimal Health Centre – who sometimes admit toknowing more about the animals in their care thanthey do about members of their own family. Theseries is narrated by actress Jane Horrocks.In Monday’s episode, it is a big day at the zooowing to the long-awaited arrival of a new Indianrhino. Batschii has come from a zoo inSwitzerland to be a mate for Patna – Chester’sonly male Indian rhino. As the animal arrives, sheis welcomed by head keeper of rhinos ChasMackenzie and an excited team of keepers andvets, who now have a total of nine rhinoceros intheir care. Meanwhile, vet Steve Unwin mustexamine a nine-day-old giraffe who is sufferingfrom an upset stomach.In Tuesday’s instalment, a group of seven ring-tailed lemurs leaves the zoo. The animals havebeen excluded from the 27-strong lemur colony atChester Zoo following a number of familysquabbles, so staff have decided to send them toa zoo in Siberia for a new life. Batschii the Indianrhino, meanwhile, settles down to her new routinein Chester.Wednesday is a sad day at the zoo becauseTejas, the Asiatic lion cub, leaves for a new home inFrance. Keepers and staff wave goodbye as thefive-month-old cub is driven away by head keeperAlan Woodward. It was Alan who hand-rearedTejas at Chester when the animal’s motherrejected her cub. Thanks to Alan and his team ofkeepers and vets, Tejas survived to become one ofonly nine Asiatic lion cubs in the whole of Europe.On Thursday, Tejas arrives at his new home inFrance after a gruelling 900-mile journey fromChester. Alan is at his side as the cub isintroduced to his new French keeper at BesanconZoo near the Swiss border. Back in the UK, thereare still concerns about Margaret, Chester’s babygiraffe, who is only half the size she should be.And in the last programme of the current serieson Friday, it is an emotional day for Alan as hesays goodbye to Tejas. After five monthstogether, it is time for the two of them to part. Inthe first few days of their acquaintance, Alan keptthe tiny cub at home and bottle-fed him everythree hours, night and day. His dedication, andthe back-up provided by the other keepers andvets, enabled Tejas to pull through. Alan is theonly parent Tejas has ever known. “He’ll miss us,”says Alan. “But we’ll miss him more. We’re all veryproud of him.”

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