Kate Humble reveals which of Longleat’s residents will be stealing the limelight as Animal Park returns
Kate Humble and Ben Fogle are making their way back to Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire for the 14th series of of BBC1’s much-loved fly-on-the-enclosure series Animal Park Summer Special.
The new series, which kicks off today, sees the hosts, along with co-presenter Jean Johansson, go behind-the-scenes to explore the births, deaths and dramas among Longleat’s residents.
Here, Kate Humble tells us the top four stars of the show in the return of Animal Park…
“There’s been enormous excitement over the arrival of five koalas from Australia, we’ve fallen in love with them. Southern koalas are quirky, bigger and hairier! They’re not behind glass here, so you see them in trees doing their koala thing and you sense their individual characters. But they’re challenging.
“They’re a genetically poor population, so they have illnesses they’re less resilient to, including kidney diseases. We sadly lost Wilpena, one of the five koalas who came, which was devastating for the keepers who work so hard with them. But the upside, if there is one, is that it’s given scientists a rare opportunity to study koala disease. It wasn’t a life wasted.”
“The wolf pack dynamic is fascinating. There’s some wrangling and there were signs the dominant female, Eliska, was pregnant. We created a den for her with straw and camelhair and put a camera in to film a wolf birth. Did Eliska den there? Did she heck! It was wolf hide and seek! But we had a camera on a tree stump and there are six babies. Jango the male’s hilarious. He wants to be mum and keeps thinking, ‘Could I have this one?’ and Eliska’s thinking, ‘Put it down!’”
“Inny and Gordito had been partnered and separated at another collection but now they’ve been reunited here and it was instant Brazilian love! They can’t keep their paws off each other although they’re practically past it. We wanted to see if Inny’s pregnant and used a thermal imaging camera and she’s either ovulating or pregnant. She’s definitely tubbier. But she might just be getting more fish because Gordito’s generous – that’s the way to a woman’s heart!”
“Harry’s the young male in one pride and we wanted to ensure he won the females’ respect and was in control. We gave them a carcass to eat, as that’s how you see the hierarchy because, annoyingly, the girls do the hunting but the boys get first pickings! Harry wasn’t chased off by the females and got in first and dictated who fed. He’s very handsome so it’s nice to know he’s not all looks, he wears the trousers too!”
Animal Park airs every weekday from Monday 5 August on BBC1 at 9.15am