many years reindeer in British zoos and collections were divided into
two 'groups': those that were owned by the Highland Reindeer
Company (founded by the famous Laplander Utzi), and the rest. The
latter, at three or four zoos - principally Whipsnade, Chester, and
the Norfolk Wildlife Park - where they were kept in breeding groups
and not halter trained. The Highland reindeer, on the other hand,
were not only a wonderful sight grazing in droves across the Cairngorm
Highland scenery, but were available in at least four trained teams
of geldings for Santa's Christmas displays.
the late Andy Smith R.S.A
were hired for functions the length and breadth of the country. We
are probably not the only zoo in Britain to have watched their local
Christmas lights being switched on by some celebrity accompanied by
a team of Highland-based reindeer to think, "We should be able
to do that!"
1999 when noted, Norfolk-based waterfowl dealer and breeder, Trevor
Lay, proposed importing a number of reindeer from continental Europe
utilising modern, less-restrictive legislation, we thought it was
a good opportunity to acquire our own group of young reindeer for
training (as opposed to the traditional static zoo exhibit for exhibition
- and breeding). In common with a number of other UK zoos and private
collections, in particular Dudley Zoo and Martin Lacey, we purchased
a small group of reindeer.
we established them with their own facilities, some of which were
sponsored (Albion Fencing Company), we found them very prone to
respiratory disorders and digestive upsets when exposed to any wet
weather. It was when treating the animals for just such conditions
that the male suffered a severe anaphylactic shock - due, probably,
to the antibiotic being used by the vet. His head swelled up bulbously
and, despite every effort, he died very quickly. The other collections
experienced few, if any, problems, due, we discover, to their reindeer
- at least for the first six months or so - being kept under cover.
At the first sign of significant rain ours are now shut in, and
that seems to have stabilised matters considerably.
because of our experiences, we have been significantly put off attempting
any training, sometimes feeling - exaggeratedly, we hope - that
if we touched them they might drop down dead, or sick. Anyway, much
later than anticipated we now have the reindeer - once nervous and
flighty - approaching us voluntarily in a cautious but confiding
manner. They have also accepted head collars, but anything more
than that is being wildly optimistic.
Poem about reindeer