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The Keepers' Diaries: Our marvellous mammals

Posted on 26 Jun 2020

Today we will share what some of our most beloved mammals were up to while our doors were closed, in our second and final captive collection keeper diary entry, from Rosie Griffin, Living Collections Supervisor (Mammals), WWT Slimbridge.

Hello! My job here at Slimbridge is to oversee and care for the mammal section, which includes the North American river otters, the water voles and the harvest mice. During lockdown, the behaviour of the mammals had definitely changed, and some were missing our visitors as much as the staff were!

While there were no visitors and less staff on-site, my normal day completely changed during lockdown. One of the main differences was that there were no public talks to deliver at the Otter Pool, and no visitors to chat to.

Flow and Haha, the two North American river otters, were normally very happy to interact with guests through the windows at their enclosure, and most days people would see them waiting on the stones by the glass ready for our talks (although I think it’s the food that they are most excited about!).

We have been trying to keep them in their usual routine, but they stopped waiting patiently in their spot when we didn’t have the gathering crowds twice a day. I’m sure it won’t be too long before they are back in the swing of things and we begin our talks again. They were however waiting for me in their usual spot one day recently and I was thrilled to see them both sitting together again – and Flow did come up to the glass to greet me (or rather, to see what was in the bowl!).

While the sociable otters are definitely missing the human interaction, the shyer rodents might find it more of a shock as visitors begin to return…!

The harvest mice have begun their usual springtime baby-boom in our off-show breeding room, and these offspring are introduced to our on-show facilities in the Back from the Brink corridor when they are old enough. These playful juveniles are getting very brave, sitting out in the open to eat and also swinging from the new plants that we put in for them to eat and play with.

Our water vole sisters, Thelma and Louise, are also more active, and it also coincides with the period where they would be out more eating new vegetation in the wild. We are continuing to spoil them rotten here at Slimbridge with foliage and plants to eat, as well as their extra fruit and veg treats! There is always plenty to go around, although as you can see, Thelma doesn’t like to share!

Hopefully the mice and voles are continuing to behave with this new-found confidence since we have re-opened, and the gradual reintroduction of visitors will mean they get used to numbers of people again in small steps – just like us staff will…!

Author: Rosie Griffin, Living Collections Supervisor (Mammals), WWT Slimbridge

Watch the latest WWT Slimbridge Wildwatch with Rosie Griffin

We urgently need to ask for your help to save our wildlife.

As our world strives to come to terms with COVID-19 many of the vulnerable wetland species you’ve just been reading about are at greater risk than ever before.