The British Wildlife Centre (BWC) is a little pocket of countryside that combines wetland, woodland and marsh to create the ideal natural environment for around forty species native to the UK. The centre is home to birds, mammals and reptiles, some of which have been rehabilitated because of permanent injury or too much contact with humans. They range in size from harvest mice to red deer with all sorts in between. It’s a particular treat to be able to see animals native to Scotland such as the pine marten and the Scottish wildcat, the latter of which is now critically endangered.
Five years ago, I attended one of the BWC’s photography days, which was a fantastic opportunity to practise using my new telephoto lens and get to grips with wildlife photography. Taking part in the photography day enables guests to visit the centre out of hours and get even closer to the animals. Recently I decided to return to the BWC and see what I could capture.
A lot of wildlife writers I know don’t post about captive wildlife. I can understand why – regardless of the facility it is the concept of animals in cages that they don’t agree with. However, the BWC isn’t cramming elephants into its enclosures. Conservation of British wildlife is at the forefront of their objectives and this is done primarily through education. When the centre is closed to the public, the BWC welcomes school groups and those in higher education to provide “a real natural history experience”. What I love most about the BWC is that it aims to promote greater involvement in British wildlife by giving children and students an opportunity to study native wildlife in a natural setting.
A particular favourite of mine was Flo the red fox. She rested with her eyelids drooping, her fur glistening fiery orange in the bright sun. She is one of the animals that has become too habituated with humans to be released, so she enjoys unlimited cuddles from the keepers. I sat down beside the fence and she got to her feet, stepping through the grass to lie down close to me. I took the chance to admire the stunning brush tail that swept around her back legs, her wet black nose and long whiskers. It was impossible to see how anyone could hate such a stunning animal. I sat with Flo for a while, the two of us basking in unnaturally hot November weather until a family with children approached and she trotted over to say hello.