I’ve covered the raptor flight show at the wonderful Wildpark Tambach near Coburg before, as well as the lynxes; now it is time for an overview of what else the place has to offer. As is typical for a “Wildpark” (game park) there were quite a few cervids around. I’ll start with a somewhat unusual photo.
Looks almost like two weird goats, doesn’t it? But that’s not what these animals are. They are in fact a leucistic and a melanistic Fallow Deer (Dama dama). Leucistic means that the animal has reduced skin pigments because it lack colour producing cells in the skin, but is not an albino (that affects only melanin, and means none is present), and melanistic means that skin pigments are produced in abundance and colour the animal dark to black. We got the park in time for lunch break, then right away went for the lynx and wolf feeding. The trek there led through the huge cervid enclosure that is banned for dogs (don’t get me started about the retarded dog owners who let their dog drool on our stroller, twice, and thought that absolutely normal). We quickly happened upon a large herd of Fallow Deer, including several leucistic and one melanistic one.
One suspiciously light-coloured doe (close to leucistic, in fact) came quite close and inspected us from a few meters. As always, the way the eyeballs stick out of the skull struck me as both weird and something to keep in mind when looking at extinct animals, especially with regards to their field of view. A few millimeters further in or out, how much of a difference does that make? I’ve had interesting conversations about this topic with my esteemed colleague Dave Hone before; I guess it is time we actually get some data and write a paper.
The second herd we saw was one of Red Deer (Cervus elaphus).
They quickly took off (making me again very happy with my 300mm Tamron zoom lens) as they had several fawns. The big harts with many-tined antlers were all kept in a separate enclosure at the base of the hill, and when we walked by they all rested in one big mixed group including Red Deer, Fallow Deer and Sika Deer (Cervus nippon). Two Red Deer harts did me the favour of standing up and walking off, so I got good shots. No such luck with the Sika Deer; you can spy one hart pretending to be a Fallow Deer just to the right of the middle of the first photo.
What makes the Wildpark Tambach very nice is, in addition to a surprisingly cool selection of animals on show, the scenery and its size. It is big, a lot of open and forested landscape, but not so big you get lost of walk your feet sore without getting anywhere. The land is hilly, and thus not boring at all, and from many points you get selected vistas of Tambach Palace. There’s lots of benches to sit on, and a sufficient number of trash cans; the paths are well signposted – all in all a great place for a day with the family. I especially liked the fact that they don’t shove merchandise and fast food at you all the time. There is a big restaurant next to the entrance, and a huge playground (I had a hard time getting the kids away from it), but that’s it. Wonderful!
Tambach also has a huge enclosure for another cervid, one that is less likely to flee and more likely to give you serious trouble: Alces alces, the moose. The enclosure is really cool, with lots of swampy ground so beloved by moose, as you can see in the photo below. As a consequence, though, we did not get to see any moose. There is a stand overlooking the reed beds, and there is a more forest-y part of the enclosure, but we were out of luck. By the time we got there it was early evening, and I guess the animals were simply waiting for the noisy humans to get lost before they came back out.
OK, enough cervids now. The typical Central European game park assemblage of large mammals includes, aside from deers, the Wild Boar, and – in better-stocked places – a cat (Wildcat or Lynx, Tambach has both) and/or wolves (also present at Tambach). Some game parks also have European Bison (Bison bonasus), and it is no surprise that Tambach has a large enclosure for them.
In comparison even to the biggest harts, these bovids are really massive and huge! Amiercan Bison, with their huge mass of shaggy hair on head, neck and anterior trunk and the in comparison scrawny back end always look somewhat weird to me, a bit ridiculous. The European cousins – well, that’s one mean-looking serious beast! A cow with brains and an attitude. I remember photos in a GEO magazine article years ago of a Bison in Poland killing a grown Wild Boar!
Also shown at Tambach is a cattle that was specifically bred to resemble the Aurochs. Realistically, though, one must say that it is a vague resemblance, not more than you see in several primitive breeds. And much smaller, too.
While we are talking bovids, here’s two more:
Mouflon (Ovis aries orientalis) – and what a beautifully horned ram! And now for a really weird sheep: Jacob Sheep (also Ovis aries orientalis). These buggers have two to six(!)! horns, the normal number being four.
Finally, the Wildpark Tambach keeps Muntjacs (no pics, sorry) and Wild Boars (no need to show these) – and that’s the final tally of artiodactyles. What remains for me to show is the second big species of carnivore from Europe:
Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus lupus) – although these are so small and slender that I wonder if they are maybe from the south-eastern end of the range. I’ll post more wolf photos later.
In summary, Tambach is a place you should check out if you are in the area! And not only for the raptors.