Friday 18 June 2004
Why not come to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park and picnic with the mara
When you visit Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, one of the things that will grab your attention, apart from the beautiful rolling parkland, are the seven species of free roaming animals which have access to all of the Park's 600 acres.
One of the most fascinating of these species is the strange looking mara, which looks like a cross between and hare and a small antelope. They even have hoof-like claws on their hind feet.
During these summer months the mara are busy looking after their latest babies having paired up in late winter and early spring. Each pair usually has two offspring which are minature replicas of the adults, but they grow at a surprising rate. Several pairs can easily be seen with their offspring in the white rhino paddock.
"It's a great time of year to see them," said Cliff Tack, Regional co-ordinator for Whipsnade's Africa region. "They have taken over an old rabbit warren in the white rhino paddock and have burrowed further into the soil embankment,"
However, do be sure to keep your distance from any baby mara that you may spot as their parents will reject them if they have been touched by humans.
It is estimated that Whipsnade has a population of approximately 150 of these Argentinean rodents and they graze on the paddocks and grasslands all year round, with added supplements of hay or animal feed.
Facts about mara
Maras have an unusual social system. Pairs mate for life and are aggressive towards others and yet they rear their young in communal crèches.
Baby maras are already well-developed when they are born. Their parents leave them in a burrow with other young maras, returning once a day to feed them.
Maras live in dry areas with course grass or scattered shrubs. They eat any vegetation they can find.
Numbers are declining owing to competition with the introduced European hare.