Happy New Year...
We send the very best wishes to all our staff, visitors and supporters for 2023.
A review of 2022 might be of interest, as the year proved to be something of a roller-coaster.
We all endured relentless and increasing media 'scare-mongering' over hot weather in the summer, cold weather in the winter, and then the supposed shortages of petrol, diesel and Christmas turkeys, which turned out to not be shortages at all!
A visit to the Zoo, a day in the countryside to meet our wonderful animals, is a welcome distraction for many people, and we certainly experienced this at Hamerton. Continuing a six year trend of annually increasing year-on-year visitor numbers, 2022 saw another rise at the Park; along with the higher numbers of annual pass holders we had after the Covid lockdowns, continuing too.
Development of our facilities included the opening of our new Dinosaur area in the spring, with the new feature proving very popular over the summer. We are looking forward to the arrival of a new larger train with bigger carriages from the USA during 2023, order some time ago now before Covid broke. New kiosks, plus Tortoise and Otter houses were built along with a series of new aviaries, and work progresses well on the Tortoise and Meerkat enclosures which should be complete by Easter.
2023 will see some new challenges, including a trebling of our electricity prices. We have done all we have been allowed to do, to mitigate this, and have invested heavily in renewable energy production. The rises come as the result of the Conservative Governments introduction and continuation of their ban of on-shore wind, stopping the most cost effective form of electricity generation.
This ban resulted in our application to erect another two wind-turbines in the field north of the bears being rejected, and our appeal against Huntingdon Council's rejection being dismissed. It is sad that we could be doing much more, and be a net-generator of electricity again, but are prevented from doing so...
Our two turbines produce close to 400,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year and feature on our new logo introduced in the autumn, in addition to being part of the local landscape now. A new web-site is under development and should come on-stream during 2023.
After a trial, a series of air-source heat pumps is being installed to help reduce the rises in electricity consumption forced by development and the arrival of three new electric buggies to replace our diesel ones, and washing-up machines to deal with the crockery replacing the disposables expected during Covid. Investment in these areas is also inevitably a series of swings-and-roundabouts. The pity is that none of these purchases help the UK economy as the products and equipment are made in France, China, Japan and Austria.
2022 was a year of highs and lows in our animal collection too. With such a wide range of residents, it is inevitable that there will be some we have to say goodbye to each year. Many of these cannot be classed as unexpected, but although most have reached great ages (record ages in some cases) some others are taken before their time. Feelings of sadness and frustration are experienced by everyone involved. Anticipation, joy and relief accompany the many new arrivals and births which the year has seen.
Animal arrivals have been quite limited due to restrictions caused by Covid and especially Brexit. Coatis, monkeys and armadillos have arrived along with a number of reptile including Anthill Pythons, Black Tree Monitors, plus Star and Egyptian Tortoises. Uncertainties over bird-flu meant no new bird species came to us in 2022.
2023 is expected to be very different with over 20 new kinds of animals arriving - mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Our Marsupials had a good season with the various wallabies and bettongs continuing to do well. Our Tasmanian Golden Possum group, the only ones outside Australia produced another two joeys; and the Ring-tailed Possum joeys were the first born here and in the whole of Europe. We welcomed our second Wombat joey too.
Other mammals included another Pudu, twin White-bearded Civets, and two Two-toed Sloths one baby to each of our two newly formed pairs.
For our birds, 2022 was rather more mixed. Disappointingly the eggs laid by our Cassowaries and Flamingos were infertile for the first time. Clearance of the large nest mound in our Australian Brush Turkey aviary at the end of the season to allow the male to start building again, produced no fewer than 50 buried eggs. This was amazing as no sign of the hens visiting the mound had ever been noted, so we must assume that this happens last thing in the evening or very early morning. There is of course, at this stage, no way of knowing if these eggs were infertile too; but we hope that the male and his hens have a breakthrough this year, as these birds are the only breeding group to be found in Europe.
Because we did not know if we would be allowed to move surplus birds, only young Argus Pheasants and Barking Owls were reared, plus our pair of Tawny Frogmouths imported from Australia, had a bumper year.
All-in-all 2022 really was something of a 'curate's egg' - and Good-in-Parts...!