It’s the most wonderful time of the year – so the song goes.
At Knowsley, Christmas is not just a big deal for us humans, though. While we’re preparing our own Christmas decorations, gifts and meals, our animals have their own preparation to do.
Some native birds have migrated to warmer areas, animals such as hedgehogs and bats find somewhere to hibernate and some tough it out ‘til spring. Mountain hares in the Scottish highlands and Irish hares have a white winter coat that offers them some camouflage from predators such as birds of prey and foxes.
It’s not just native animals that adapt to the conditions however. Many of the animals at Knowsley Safari - often thought of as warm-weather animals - are actually found in colder climates and are just as at home in the snow and ice as the hot sunshine!
Here at Knowsley, we’re lucky to have our very own herd of Bactrian camels.
What you may not know is that camels have had to evolve to survive in both extremes of temperature. In the desert, the days are hot but the nights are very cold. In the winter, temperatures can drop to -20ºC! But, fortunately for Bactrian camels, their big coats grow thicker to help insulate them. That means camels don’t need to slow down at all come Christmastime – they just carry on with their business, regardless of the weather. When it comes to the summer, their big coats drop off before they get too hot!
Our gorgeous Amur tigers, Sinda and Bira, know exactly how to celebrate Christmas! They embrace the cold weather and can be found padding about on fresh powder.. Amur tigers have incredibly thick, long fur – and it grows even thicker during the winter months. This allows them to stay protected in the extremely cold climates of Russia and North Eastern China, which is where around 500 of this endangered species can be found in the wild today.
Originally found across Europe, the highly endangered European bison is equipped for the cold, windy weather of Russia and Eastern Europe. As winter creeps in, its coat grows thick with a woolly undercoat to protect it from the cold, just like getting a new winter coat for Christmas! During the blizzard months, European bison are able to plough through the thick snowy surface with their horns to reach food underneath – that’s really using your head! European bison were extinct in the wild in 1927. More recently, breeding programmes have allowed for the reintroduction of European bison back into their former territories.
During the winter months, wolves know the best way to keep warm! During the night, they curl up together and sleep next to each other – this not only gives them extra warmth but also helps to protect them from any intruders in the night. Across the globe, wolves are an animal found in the harshest of what a winter can do. North America, Canada and Northern Europe have wolves that are equipped for winter. Historically persecuted, tolerance and an understanding of their role in nature has seen some populations increase.
Père David’s Deer
The Père David deer is actually classed as extinct in the wild, so we’re proud to say we’ve been part of a project that has sent 39 deer (four from Knowsley) back to their home in China!
Now that Christmas is upon us, Père David deer are beginning to change their appearance from their summer red/brown coat to their winter grey/brown coat, to help them stay hidden from predators and allow them to feast on the winter grasses.