Six wolf cubs have arrived in East Devon from Sweden, heralding the beginning of a campaign and research project that could eventually lead to the species being reintroduced to the wild in the UK. The pack is settling into its new surroundings at Wildwood Escot in Ottery St Mary and is currently in quarantine.
The Wildwood Trust said the arrival of the wolves has been highly anticipated by visitors and marks a significant moment for the Trust in its newly acquired Devon location. The Trust is working to protect and conserve Britain’s most endangered wildlife and reintroduce animals to where they once lived. If wolves are reintroduced to the wild in the UK, it is likely to be in Northern Scotland and it may not happen for several years.
For many centuries, the European grey wolf has been a much maligned animal, persecuted due to fear, hate and misunderstanding. It is thought that the last wild wolf in the UK was shot in the 18th century. Today, with a new understanding of the wolf, many myths depicting the wolf as a villain have been dispelled and it is coming to be respected as an awe-inspiring animal. It is the Trust’s mission to continue to educate and inspire visitors on the facts about this animal.
The six siblings, four males and two females, are 10 months old and have been named after musicians: Elvis, Sting, Lemmy, Moby, PJ and KD. They are part of an ongoing research project which began at Tovetorp in Sweden. The research, which will be continued by Wildwood staff, seeks to understand the crucial early stages of wolf domestication when our ancestors first invited these ferocious predators into their homes. Wolf cubs are being compared with dog puppies.
Wildwood chief executive Peter Smith said: “The goal of the Wildwood Trust is to tell the story of the last thousand years of British wildlife, and this research project covers a vital part of that story. Wolves played an incredibly important role in our history, shaping our culture and even the landscape. It’s a great privilege to have these magnificent animals at our Devon site to help us tell their story.”
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Grey wolves were once found all over the Northern hemisphere. They are the size of a large Alsatian but can blend in very well with their surroundings. The enclosure that Wildwood Escot’s wolf pack will now call home has been designed specially to tend to their natural needs. With copious places to hide, a pond for cooling off in the summer and natural vegetation, there is plenty of space in this enclosure to meet the needs of this young pack.
Wildwood keeper Kerry James said: “We’re really excited about the wolves. We visited them in Sweden as part of the transfer to meet their keepers and get to know them. They’ve each got their own personalities and it’s going to be a real pleasure working with them.”
To allow the wolves to settle in as naturally and comfortably as possible, they will undergo a quarantine period of four months. They will not be on view to the public straight away but gradually introduced to protect them from and monitor any sign of disease. This quarantine period also allows them to get to know their keepers, surroundings, and establish a new routine.