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088 GARDENING


ROARING SUCCESS!


Big Cat Sanctuary celebrates, royal recognition for Chilstone, news on a new farming show for the county, plus jobs to do and more


Caroline Knight T


he Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden is celebrating expansion and improvement, with some new bespoke enclosures. This has extended the


centre’s capability for keeping wild cats, which are within the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme. The new enclosures are furnished with heated mats, a waterfall and pool, play tunnels, exotic greenery and lots of enrichment features for the inhabitants to enjoy. The feline residents include Aquarius the fishing cat (pictured above), one of the


smallest cat residents, who was born at the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Dover in 2011. Fishing cats are found naturally in wetlands, rivers and mangrove forest in Asia. They are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, their main threat being habitat destruction and poaching. Big Cat Sanctuary keeper, Simon, shares a special bond with Aquarius, saying: “I just think they are brilliant creatures – I love the look of fishing cats, their almost otter- shaped heads and semi-webbed paws which both help them to be strong swimmers. I feel that we are very lucky to have a fishing cat in our collection here at the sanctuary… zoos are less likely to have smaller cats and I love being able to introduce people to this interesting, different species and educate them about the fascinating wild cousin of the domestic cat.”


The Big Cat Sanctuary is not generally open to the public, but the charity relies on donations in order to care for their animals and support breeding programmes. It offers several specialised experiences including Big Cat Encounters Photographic Workshops, Big Cat Adoptions and Overnight Big Cat Safari Experiences. • Visit thebigcatsanctuary.org


4 things to do IN THE GARDEN this month


1. Things might be feeling a little chilly out in the garden, but don’t let this stop you from enjoying some winter pruning. Roses, wisteria, black and redcurrant bushes, apple and pear trees all respond well to dormant pruning. Keep away from stone fruit trees such as cherries and plums, however, because winter pruning can introduce disease.


2. If you were given bulb- planting kits for Christmas, plant them indoors now. Amaryllis, daffodil, crocus and tulip kits can all be started now for some welcome early spring colour.


3. Shred your Christmas tree (real trees only!) and use it as mulch. There are also Christmas tree recycling schemes that collect trees from your front garden.


4. Keep heavy snow off hedges, shrubs and small trees as it can break branches and cause spreading, thus spoiling the shape.


© Alma Leaper


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