Zoological Society of Glasgow and West of Scotland acquired the
40 hectare site at Calderpark in 1939. Although designated today
as "degraded Greenbelt" because of past and continuing uses for
industry (e.g., the Calderpark pit-head, mineral railway and pit
bing (or ash spoil heap)), the site also includes three kilometres
of a tributary of the Clyde - the North Calder Water - running from
North-East to South-West, sheer Devonian red sandstone and Carboniferous
shale cliffs (up to 50 metres in height), a one hectare lake (Webster's
Pond, an abandoned North Calder meander), two hectares of original
elm/ash native woodlands (believed totally untouched by man, and
containing no exotic species), and fifteen hectares of parkland
around the site of Calderpark House (demolished in the early 1930s
because of mining subsidence). This parkland contains many fine
specimen trees, some (sweet chestnut, cut-leaved beech) growing
on the northern limit of their range in Europe.
occupation of the estate for many decades (possibly centuries),
the estate was unoccupied for two decades prior to construction
of the Zoo, which commenced on the western portion of the site in
1946. Since then there has been a daily presence by employees, with
twenty-four hour cover, at least since the early 1970s. During this
period, with the exception of some pest control (rats, rabbits,
foxes - though not for many years) and occasional air-gun damage
(grey squirrels), the estate has been protectively managed to conserve
its natural history. During the late 1970s to mid-80s over 120,000
trees and shrubs were planted with one result being the extension
of the feeding/foraging ranges of free-living badgers throughout
course the key to the survival of wild animals is the maintenance
of habitat, and the lands of the Zoological Society of Glasgow and
the West of Scotland provides a stable environment for them. You
can help us go on providing that stable habitat by sponsoring these
at Glasgow Zoopark
Zoopark provides a great opportunity to see a multitude of wild
birds both on site and close by. Click here
for a checklist.
have been a feature for many years, probably centuries. We are proud
of this and used to be unguarded with this information until the
Lanarkshire Badger Watch warned us that illegal badger digging and
badger baiting still occurred in the area. Sure enough, we have
subsequently repelled groups of men with long-handled spades and
teams of lurchers and terriers from the undeveloped land near the
lake close to one of the occupied setts.
setts can be found on both sides of the North Calder Water, it is
clear to us that they are connected; from time to time - admittedly
some years ago now - the keepers have come across individual badgers,
stumbling around and clearly ill and disorientated. We soon found
out that they had been eating poisoned earthworms and/or the slug-type
bait put down on the golf course to control earthworms on the greens.
Treatment by the vet, and peace and quiet for two or three days
in a empty loose box in the camel/cattle house, and the badgers
made complete recoveries.
the heavy planting of trees, lawns and shrubberies, badgers can
be encountered in the evenings and during the night in all areas
of the Zoo. Their runs are well marked, and we make a point of keeping
their traditional access points clear.
June, in some very productive years the young badgers on the golf
course become so used to humans, that they forage in full view,
which some people find disconcerting. We have received appeals in
the past for some of these 'surplus' young badgers to be 'translocated',
but this is a complicated procedure for a heavily protected animal,
requiring licences, etc., so best left to the local officer of Scottish
more on Badgers.
a river and much natural habitat on the site, foxes are ever-present.
There are usually one, possibly two pairs, with one den in the valley
just to the north of the Black bear fence, and another den by the
riverside beyond the cattle/camel paddock.
caused us few problems until we started to keep peafowl, guineafowl,
jungle fowl and the animals of the Children's Farm at semi-liberty.
This coincided with the regular use of a high-sided skip and all
rubbish having to be moved off site at least twice a week. We now
know that all peahens incubating eggs naturally in long grass will
be hunted out without fail, so any eggs found are lifted, if possible,
for artificial incubation under bantams in the Children's Farm.
late, Lanarkshire-based naturalist, David Stephen, whose book String-lug,
the Fox was a seminal influence on the Director several decades
ago, used to argue vehemently that people should learn to co-exist
with their resident pair of foxes. Removing them just creates a
vacuum into which wandering foxes are soon attracted. This advice,
which we follow, certainly stretches the patience, when after a
fruitless night's scavenging the dog fox hides in the shrubbery
until the poultry in the Children's Farm are let out in the morning
and then snatches two or three, in broad daylight, sometimes as
late as 10 am. We have now taken to deliberately feeding the foxes,
with the bonus, we think, of cub-watching for visitors during light
the progress of a fox in the evening is greatly facilitated by a)
their predictability - leaving their den at 9 pm to 9.20 pm onwards
unless it is raining, and b) the cacophony of angry cackling set
up by carrion crows, rooks and particularly magpies as they harass
the fox on its rounds. With a 100-nest rookery there are usually
one or more baby rooks on the ground in June and it is salutary
to see the dog fox unerringly head straight there, to return twenty
minutes later with a limp bundle of black feathers. No wonder the
adults sound so furious.
more on foxes.
very unwelcome interlopers first appeared in 1982, travelling east
along the banks of the North Calder River. All the examples we have
observed have been of the chocolate brown, wild type. Sometimes
we can go for months without seeing one, but then more dead waterfowl
tell their own dismal story, so much so that we have now stopped
using the riverside paddocks for any sort of vulnerable birds.
their depredations, their presence can have its lighter moments.
In 1985, one of the volunteers, a very strong and enthusiastic young
man, greeted the Director as he drove into the Zoo, by triumphantly
emerging from behind a low beech hedge clasping a wriggling creature
with both hands:
"Mr O'Grady, I've caught the escaped ferret from the Education
"But we haven't lost a ferret," he replied, simultaneously
noticing hands and arms dripping with blood!
more on Mink.
earliest recorded introduction of Grey squirrels to Great Britain
was in 1867 when a pair was liberated at Macclesfield in Cheshire.
In Scotland, a pair was liberated at Finnart on Loch Long in 1892,
on the borders of Dunbarton and Argyll. From here they spread northwards
to Arrochar and Tarbet by 1903, east to Luss by 1904, and to Inverbeg
1906. By 1907, they had spread to Garelochhead, Rosneath 1915, and
south to Helensburgh, Alexandria and Cardross by 1912. By 1915 they
had spread to the east side of Loch Lomond and Drymen in Stirlingshire.
1913 Grey squirrels were introduced to Edinburgh Zoo from where
some escaped and colonised Corstorphine Hill, with other introductions
at Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline in 1919 and Ayrshire and North
Queensferry in Fife in 1929. These fresh introductions undoubtedly
introduced fresh blood, and by the mid-1950s extensive areas of
lowland Scotland had been colonised. Where Grey squirrels were not
present it was usually because some natural barrier, e.g., a lengthy
expanse of treeless moorland, had prevented their immigration.
the space of about a hundred years, this interesting animal has
thoroughly colonised most of Great Britain, with consequences upon
the native Red squirrel population which are still being studied
have always had plenty of Grey squirrels, which cause us no problems
at all, and are a great delight to visitors. July is a lean month
for wild Grey squirrels, with some squirrels dying of starvation
before the Autumn harvest, but not here - July is usually our peak
month and the visitors leave plenty of scraps which the squirrels
enjoy, quite apart from what they can rely on in the animal enclosures.
Zoopark maintains a significantly large population of wild grey
squirrels focussed on the area around the Tropical House and Children's
Farm, down to the Car Parks, and across to the Tiger House, Small
Primate House, and spreading out less densely into the Calderpark
woodlands alongside the river behind the Ankole Cattle.
density is in my opinion abnormally high, especially this year where
the all year-round supply of zoo food has been boosted by an abundant
crop of acorns and hazelnuts, and some beech. As the area described
is also visibly part of the former Calderpark Estate and parkland,
oak and beech trees are regularly spaced throughout the site.
favoured zoo food ranges from cubes of bread, some fruit, ungulate,
bird and pig pellets, to the most favoured peanuts in their shells,
(used as scatter feeds for the Porcupines and Collared Peccaries).
November, with the young of the year well grown, population levels
seem at their highest. This reminded me of South Carolina in 1997
where the area around the Airport on Hilton Head Island seemed to
carry a similarly large population. The difference seemed to me
that the American squirrels were more dispersed, and clearly feeding
on natural foods, particularly the cones of the numerous pine trees.
It was also much warmer and the squirrels had thinner coats, suggesting
a much lower energy requirement to that of our own squirrels.
has struck me this year in particular are the high numbers of aggressive
interactions amongst our squirrels.
we have always tried to run the land occupied by the Zoopark (40
acres developed, 95 acres in total) as an ad-hoc nature reserve,
I have been well aware - though I could never catch them - that
certain locals and one former member of staff regarded grey squirrels
as vermin and would shoot them with air-guns - or, so I was told,
and certainly that was the way they talked about them.
would find the occasional dead grey squirrel, usually unmarked,
and would assume that it had either been shot by an air-gun, or
died of some virus. I confess, I never seriously considered having
one post- mortemed.
purpose for writing is that this year, 1998, I have been very struck
by the sheer numbers of aggressive encounters I have witnessed between
squirrels. A squirrel bridge highway of a heavy electric
cable, crosses a road just outside my office window, joining the
building four metres from where I sit. This highway leads directly
from one oak tree to another oak tree. Both are positioned in the
middle of large enclosures.
have become very used to the normal vocal communications of grey
squirrels and always stop to take a look when I hear a squirrel
scolding outside. In the past I assumed this was in response
to a cat, and often it was.
this year, nearly allof the aggressive scoldings, accompanied
by tail flicking, has been emanating from one squirrel chiding another.
It can continue for a long time, well over half an hour on some
occasions (when this takes place 10 metres away, it takes the
form of a stuttering electric drill if you are trying to concentrate).
Normally, one squirrel is facing another, who is usually frozen,
silent, watching intently from about three metres away. Where they
are closer, worst of all when one squirrel has another trapped against
the wall with their head close to the masonry, even if you chase
them apart, you invariably find a dead squirrel (superficially unmarked)
in the immediate area, a day or two later. Killed, it appears again
to be unmarked though a tooth through the skull might not leave
much visible evidence perhaps?
this aggression, as I believe it was, perhaps triggered-off by over-high
populations focussed on relatively concentrated feeding points?
Or, was the second squirrel already ill in some way, and in consequence
being singled out by the others?
for more on Squirrels
Wildlife garden as a teaching resource