As an Australian, I am accustomed to weird and wonderful wildlife roaming the bushland of my country. Almost instinctively, I expect an amble through, around, across the great outdoors to bring with it at the very least a very big lizard, or a multicoloured parrot of some sort. I still, living in a land where the most dangerous thing you may encounter on a Sunday stroll is a wasp, think any flickering in my peripheral vision could be a snake. And I believe I will always fight the urge to tip my boots upside down before putting them on.
However, as an Australian raised on Enid Blyton, there are several creatures I find particularly thrilling; squirrels, badgers, red breasted robins, hedgehogs, deer, foxes, wild ponies, and bumblebees. And you know how I feel about pigs. Thankfully, around where we live, there are several nature and animal parks where I can frolic with a significant number of Blyton’s cast of characters, some wild, some not so wild. And with Autumn in the air, russet-red squirrels are gamboling about with their snowy bellies, and every time I see one, I stand still like a three year old and follow its speedy journey from branch to branch to branch. I’m not the only one – I saw a grown man almost on his knees the other day, mugging happily at a tree trunk as a squirrel ran around it.
This weekend’s Ausflug saw us driving fifteen minutes down the road to Tannenberg Park, a protected wildlife park that is home to several species of wild deer and, most happily, wild pigs. I have been desperate to encounter a wild pig in the wild – from a safe distance, with some sort of body armour on – since learning of the things a few years ago. Tannenberg Park has a colony of wild pigs safely fenced in, and at the moment, two of the dearest little striped piglets.
Wisely kept separate from the little striped ones, were some rather riotous teen pigs who were as fast as the wind. My God, let me never meet a full grown wild pig with tusks. I can’t run and I can’t climb trees – not with any particular speed at my old age.
Some fenced in Japanese deer provided adequate deer-related excitement until. on our way out … REAL WILD DEER. (I actually developed the most thrilling game for when we used to drive across the country a lot … every time I spotted a wild deer, I yelled out ‘deer!’. The game can also be amended to yelling out the name of the country a fellow driver is from – Germany obviously doesn’t count.)
The park is also home to an abundance of russet-coloured squirrels, dancing around, busily preparing for winter. Alas, they were even speedier than those teen pigs and didn’t allow one in-focus picture. But they were so cute, and their bellies so very snow-white.