Animals aren't the tidiest guests

After his regular run along the Tweed recently, my husband excitedly reported that he had seen four otters playing in the water and suggested we go down there at dawn some time to see if they were around.

Saturday, 28th January 2017, 4:15 pm
Hog Cage

So last Saturday we hauled ourselves out of bed at 6.45am to get down to the river at first light.

To my amazement, after walking about a mile we spotted a large male otter, diving down to comb the river bottom and periodically popping up to chew on a small fish he’d caught.

Walking back to the car, we also watched four swans rooting out tufts of grass along the bank.

This set me thinking about the wild animals at the trust and all the work that goes into their care.

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Out in the wild, there’s a natural cycle of eating and excretion, and any amount of soil and plant life to process the waste back into the ecosystem.

In the limited confines of an aviary or a hutch at the Rollo Centre though, things would get a bit messy if it weren’t for the volunteers and their regular cleaning and feeding routine.

Errol the tawny owl’s table manners, for instance, leave a lot to be desired. Errol’s evening meal consists of one or two dead hen chicks, which he consumes overnight. The next day the humans arrive to find the less appetising body parts, such as legs and tiny feet, festooning his box or the tree stump in the centre of his aviary, seemingly arranged in readiness for collection by his ‘staff’.

All the hedgehogs in outside hutches are now hibernating, but the indoor hogs are a different story.

Most are still up and about overnight, ripping their newspapers up for bedding, tipping their water bowls over, distributing food around the floor of their cages and trampling it into their towel ‘nest’.

Poo is also used to creative effect; I’d swear they have competitions to see which hog can get the highest by doing handstands against the walls of their cage.

‘Snuffles’, as I call him, is the worst offender. A condition he has seems to cause the poor guy to be constantly wheezing and coughing. But you could hardly say he’s wasting away as he loves his food and last week weighed in at a whopping 1.2kg. He’s now been put on a diet, and is not allowed ‘top-ups’ if he scoffs all his food as soon as it’s put down.

The ‘patients’ are making the best of being in a confined area, of course. It’s up to the trust volunteers to ensure they’re kept healthy and comfortable with a daily cleaning routine.

We get through endless amounts of old newspapers to line cages, and are always delighted to receive donations of bundles of old papers (as opposed to magazines because the glossy paper is not absorbent).

To anyone wanting to put their old newspapers to good use, please drop them off to us at the Rollo Centre.