All in a day's work
The name is Samuel Hobby. I am fifteen years of age. On a regular week, I would be attending Birchgrove Comprehensive School - but this is not a regular week. On Monday I got sprayed with bark and chimp poo, and I don't remember that ever happening before, particularly not at school. Thanks to Jan and Graham Garen, yesterday was the start of my work experience at Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, an experience that will stay with me for many years to come.
My first ever working day was spent helping to design an information board for Titch the mandrill, and Cyril and Meeko, two intrepid raccoons. Their stories are typical of needy animals who find a home at the Sanctuary.
Not many people start their working day with gibbon song filling the air, but that was the soundtrack to Tuesday morning. We headed to Baboon Island, a purpose built home for a group of rescued hamadryas baboons, but primates were the last thing on our agenda. Our task for the day was to test the water around the Island.
If you build it they will come
The water survey was done with the help of OPAL, who are trying to keep the ponds and lakes of the UK healthy. Our initial tests found the water to be quite brown and cloudy, and slightly acidic with a ph reading of 5.5, but the real test of the water quality was in the number of species within.
Any doubts caused by the murkiness of the water were quickly dismissed, as three pond-filled trays were brought to the side, each wriggling with invertebrate. It was interesting to note that the water in the trays were largely clear, which made us question our initial method of testing the clarity of the water. Sadly, many invertebrate have gone unidentified at this time, but here are a few we have recognised. Their presence around Baboon Island indicates a pretty healthy environment.
Phantom midge larvae (Chaoborus sp.)
Great diving beetle (Dytiscus marginalis)
Mayfly larvae (Ephemeroptera)
Water slater (Asellus aquaticus)
Aside from the water slater, the other invertebrate (as well as many yet to be identified) will metamorphose into flying insects and bugs, which will attract predators such as swallows, who have already started arriving at the Sanctuary from Africa.
We also saw a newt, while there was evidence of both toad and frog spawn, all of which also point to a healthy environment.
Common newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)
The water around Baboon Island is spreading into smaller ponds, and proved particularly inviting for some Canada geese. A group of mallard ducks and a couple of moorhen are also using the water as their home.
Canada goose (Branta canadensis)
Many of the species listed here could not have been seen had Baboon Island not been built. It is interesting that the service the Sanctuary provides is also creating a home for our native species.