Holidays!!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have also been on holiday over the summer, to bright, sunny Scarborough. This was mostly a laying-around-the-pool-doing-sod-all holiday, but we did manage to do Scarborough SeaLife Centre, and, in case I have never mentioned this before, my zoological area of expertise happens to be marine life!!

I like SeaLife as a franchise, because they do do a lot of work for conservation projets, including WDCS (Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society), and, despite the fact that they have overseas centres, they have a 100% no-cetacean policy. No marine mammals are kept in captivity in any SeaLife Centre, except for seals which are receiving medical attention, in which case, the centres serve as veterinary hospitals. In the Scarborough Centre, there were many fascinating permanent exhibits, including a Pacific Giant Octopus, a jellyfish display, leafy sea dragons, seahorses, pipefish, penguins and an artificial reef housing a variety of reef fish, as well as blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks and leopard sharks.

Perhaps the most unusual inhabitant of the aquarium was the 50-year old Loggerhead Turtle, Antiopi. She was rescued from the waters off the Greek island of Zakynthos, where she suffered severe head injuries following a collision with a pleasure boat. Unfortunately, her injuries were so extensive that by the time the rescue crew arrived, she had suffered permanent brain damage. She was brought to the centre, where it was discovered that the way her disability affects her is that she is permanently hungry. In mammals, birds and fish, this problem can often result in obesity, and all its associated problems (kidney disease, heart problems, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.), in turtles, the problem is far more serious. Because of their shell, turtles cannot comfortably carry very much body fat, and if excessive fat builds up under the skin or around the organs, it cannot grow outwards against the bony shell, and can begin to crush the vital organs, causing internal bleeding, breathing difficulties and organ failure. In light of this, Antiopi is on a strict diet, and is fed mainly oily fish that carry little or no fat.

Another interesting specimen at the aquarium was a small pod (pod? Oh, hell, it’ll do…) of common seals. Yes, I did say that the aquarium operated a no-mammal policy, however, all the seals kept at the sanctuary are rescue seals who, for one reason or another, would not survive if released into the wild. For example, one resident male seal, Bubbles, is 14 years old (and therefore, in the wild would probably fall victim in a fight to a younger male), and is partially sighted, and therefore unable to hunt live food for himself. While I was there, there was also a young seal pup (not weaned – 6mths or younger), which was found on a local beach, having been apparently abandoned by its mother and severely underweight, dehydrated and malnourished. Fortunately, he is making good progress in captivity, and is having minimal human company, which will prepare him for going back to the wild once he is weaned onto solid food.

I find this an interesting contrast to the “educational” methods of the larger international aquariums, such as SeaWorld, but it’s late at night, and I’m running out of room on this page, so I will have to cover this argument in another post (and believe me, I will!!)

 

…Sorry for my inconsistency!!

Long time, no see…

 

I have been absent from “blogging” for a few months now, but I have a good excuse!! I have had a very busy few weeks… I had a week in Swindon working on a vintage steam railway, a week on holiday in Scarborough and two consecutive weeks’ work experience. Unfortunately, all these activities occurred over 100 miles from home, so I have been physically seperated from my beloved “blog”!! Thankfully, we recently made it up, and we’re both very happy.

I want to talk about all these things, but I’m going to discuss them in separate posts otherwise this could get confusing. First, my week on the railway. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I work as a volunteer every weekend at the Swindon & Cricklade Heritage Railway, at Blunsdon, West Swindon, (Google it, we need the money!!). The railway is currently in celebration of the opening of our new station at Taw Hill, in the middle of the beautiful Moulden Hill Country Park. This southern extension of the line has increased the length of our line to three and a half miles, and the presence of our rare visitor engine, the very pretty little former Great Western prairie tank, number 5521, has brought in even more visitors.

“Wait!”, I hear you cry, “This is all well and good, but this is a vet student blog, who gives a toss about some obnoxious little rattler in the middle of rural Wiltshire?” I’ll tell you. As the railway runs through a National Country Park, we need (and have) the services of a very good Wildlife Manager. And every good Wildlife Manager needs an Assistant Wildlife Manager… I think you can see where this is going. As the Assistant Wildlife Manager, I’m basically responsible for looking after and keeping track of the local wildlife. This includes feeding and keeping records of the wild bird populations, keeping the area on and around the railway free of pollution and litter, and looking after the station cat!

As well as this, I am also involved in some engineering projects on the railway; I am currently a trainee fireman (fire stoker – one rung below train driver!!), I’m involved in restoring a British Rail Mark. 1 carriage, a former Great Western Siphon G, a British Rail Diesel Multiple Unit and the general restoration and maintenance of all our working engines and rolling stock.

Working at the railway has helped to develop my skills in teamwork, lateral thinking, problem solving and time management. I have also had the opportunity to do things that not many other young people these days have ever or will ever get to do, but that can be very rewarding and useful later in life, such as rewiring the control panel of a BR-DMU, replacing the wooden floor paneling of a vintage carriage, driven both a steam and a diesel locomotive, performed a boiler washout, painted a 30′ railway coach, worked on stalls in fundraising events, laid down and taken up track on the permanent way and helped out in repairing the sewage system and dig the new cesspit.  .  . nice!!

Photos on the way!!