Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dispelling the myth of the big, bad wolf

Beenham-based wolf trust welcomes its four newest members

A host of celebrities have been queuing up to get a cuddle with West Berkshire’s newest residents. And newburytoday went along too. Four wolf puppies have been adopted by the UK Wolf Conservation Trust (UKWCT) in Beenham. The three female cubs, named Mai, Mika and Mosi, are dark-phase wolves, native to North America, and came from Dartmoor Wildlife Park.

After their tough start in life – they were abandoned by their elderly wolf mother and their den was flooded in heavy rain – the pups were very small when they arrived at the Wolf Trust. But with a team of volunteers providing round-the-clock care, including hand feeding the wolves every four hours, they are now progressing well. This is certainly one nightshift where there is no shortage of willing helpers.

The sisters were joined shortly afterwards by a male from the Anglian Wolf Society. The larger and slightly older pup has been named Torak after the lead character in children’s favourite the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books.

The author of the books - Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker and Soul Eater - Michelle Paver, has recently become the patron of the UK Wolf Trust. Michelle says she first went to the trust when she began writing her books, about a boy who befriends a wolf pup. She added: “Wolves have been a passion of mine for a long time and to spend time with the wolves at the centre is very special for me.”

The volunteers who have the ‘tough’ job of caring for the lovable pups say they are already exhibiting typical wolf behaviour, with tiny Mai assuming the alpha role and letting everyone know it, including Torak. Tsa Palmer, director of the centre, said: “Already the cubs are growing up fast. Each one has their own little personality, and it’s lovely to see them playing and trying to establish their place in the pack.”

And Michelle is not the only celebrity to head to Beenham to see the pups. Professional darts player and England captain, Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams has also paid a visit. Martin first got involved in 2002 and has his own adoptive wolf, Duma. “During the 2002 World Darts Championships I was invited to the UKWCT and actually filmed with the wolves for television. Not only was it an exciting experience, but I found I had an affinity with the wolves – especially Duma, who I have actually had the privilege of walking with. The UKWCT do a fantastic job and I was delighted to go back to welcome these new cubs into the family”.

The UKWCT, which was established by the late Roger Palmer in 1995, is home to 11 wolves, in three packs. When the cubs are old enough they will form a new pack with sisters Duma and Dakota.

The seven adult wolves at the centre visit schools, colleges and country shows to try and dispel the myth of the ‘big, bad wolf’. The trust also raises funds to help support wild wolf projects across Europe.

The wolves have become TV stars as well, appearing on Monarch of the Glen, the Paul O’Grady Show and an upcoming BBC documentary.

To find out more about the trust you can phone 01189 713330 or log onto www.UKwolf.org

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