Review WHF - Wildlife Heritage Foundation

Yv

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#1
As you all know, we are running more trips to the WHF this year than ever before and whilst lots of people have mentioned how much they have enjoyed their visits, I think a proper review thread is in order for those that have not yet had the pleasure.

WHF is like NOTHING you will have done before with captive big cats. Sadly we can’t all head off to Africa for a real life safari and your average zoo could not afford the insurance policy that would allow joe public this close to the animals.
Can you imagine how soft tiger fur actually is? Or how rancid its breath is? Or how big its teeth are? Ever compared your hand size to tiger paw, by placing them palm to pad? Honestly!

WHF is a real shock to first timers, but having been 3 times already and more trips booked, I can say it’s totally addictive. Squatting, quite literally, in breathing distance of a full grown male lion, or bracing, ready to dive backwards as a leopard decides it’s YOUR lens it wants for a toy [this did actually happen to me last September] and it can actually get it, is a buzz that is totally unique. I could sit all day, just a single mesh fence away, from the pumas and lynx and just watch them. Oh yes, not forgetting diving out the way of the male tiger who has a very smelly, damp party piece - his aim is spot on every time :naughty:
You don’t need fancy fast glass at WHF either, you can have as much fun and get some fabulous pictures with normal kit lenses and consumer bodies – my OH did last year and he would freely admit to being a pretty straightforward photographer - as long as it has an auto setting, he can cope. He is also the worlds most miserable cynic, but fell in love with the whole ethos and experience that is WHF. I also know several regular visitors that wouldn’t dream of visiting without their super wide angles, sigma 10-20, etc, so they can focus on that whisker that is stroking the front element!!

What I really love about WHF though, is it’s reason for being. It’s contribution to wildlife conservation and study is so important and if there is one thing I can never begrudge, it’s the cost of a day there, because as far as I am concerned, it is worth every penny and then some. The information and guidance from the staff and quality of images you will come away with [as well as the help and social side of being with other TP members] is always of a high level.
Just a great day at a great place, with great people and a shedload of fantastic pictures that will make your friends SOOOOO jealous at the end of it.

These are just some I took last year













To give you some idea of what happens - we arrive there in the morning and meet up in the marquee for coffee - though this may change soon for the new visitor centre - and a chat. This is where you can introduce yourself to each other, tell them who you are [I normally say I am Marcel, but no one ever believes me], and have a tea or coffee.

Introductions over and drinks drunk, one of the WHF photographers will introduce themselves and give you the safety briefing - sounds boring, but it's usually quite amusing, can include a display of battle wounds, and always gets you ready for what is to follow, especially in terms of what to expect by way of the nature of the animals, what they will and can do and the sort of shots you should be looking at.

Then it's off to the first enclosure - the range of cats includes Tigers, Amur Leopard, Snow Leopard, Cheetah, Lynx, Lion, Puma, Serval and Pallas Cats - and each trip will vary in the route of enclosures covered.

Lunch is usually around 1ish and any enclosures not covered by then will be done afterwards. Once you have seen all the cats with a staff member, you will get an hour or so to revisit any you want on your own, the only exception to that usually being the Amur leopards, but obviously that can be dependent on circumstances on the day with the other cats. Tea and coffee is generally available throughout the day, and there is often buns and cake served in the afternoon.

Throughout the day, you will be a mesh fence width from the animals, so as I said earler, even kit lenses will allow you to get some really good images. The fence is about 2 inch square mesh, so as long as you remember to line the centre of your lens up with the holes, it's pretty easy.

Anything from 10mm upto 300mm glass is a good length, but don't panic if you can't cover that entire range - I normally shoot almost entirely at 24-150mm range. The car park is immediately adjacent to the enclosures, you are never more than 2 minutes from it, so if you are wondering how much kit to bring, just bring it all, you can always leave some in your car and go back for it if you need it. For those using public tansport, bring what you can manage on the train/bus/etc and someone will stash it in a boot for you for the day if needs be.

Finally, these are TP meets at a location is very sympathetic to us, and us to them. You will meet other members, and I absolutely promise, that unlike the cats, we really don't bite! There is no need to be shy or worried about being on your own - every meet will have a staff member or long term regular there to be a 'central' point of contact and ALL are welcome, regardless of experience, knowledge or ability. Its about having fun, enjoying yourself and learning a bit more about using your camera. Also of course we will be running competitions here on the forum afterwards for those that came along.

That is all I can think of for now and pretty much covers the sort of information I wanted to know before my first visit. If other members would like to add their own full review and images, please do, preferably with as much information as you can for those that haven't been before and are wondering whether to visit with us.

Edit: just to add, plan on the day finishing around 4.30ish but once the guided part of the visit is done, you are pretty much free to leave when you need or want to - although they really aren't too keen on locking the doors with you on the inside ;)

If you would like to book a place, the thread is HERE with dates and booking info - just post on the thread and drop DigitalFailure a confirmation PM if you want to join us. You can also ask any questions there too.

The WHF website is HERE and there is great photo tips page that is worth a read HERE
 

..MD..

Helen Shapiro
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#2
Fantastic review and well worth a visit imho..

One from my 1st visit.



MD
 
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#4
sounds ok but a bit too far to visit. You don't say if they have a breeding program in the way of conservation to enable them to be returned back into the wild. This to me is real conservation of wild animals.

Realspeed
 
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#5
The visitor centre was needed to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.

Previously, they were using a single porta cabin for everything all in one place. Food prep, toilets & office etc. (not an ideal situation)

Paradise Wildlife Park is the main sponsor of WHF, they provide the site that they operate from in Kent as well as staff assistance and materials for their building projects. Without Paradise Wildlife Park, Managing Director Peter Sampson and his family there would be no WHF






Edit:: realspeed changed his post ... :shrug:
 
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#6
Yes sorry Hypnotic

On reflection my previous post was deleted as it appeared anti the place which I AM NOT. What I strongly object to is places that claim to do conservation work with animals, yet spend loads of cash on buildings etc to make the establishment worth a fortune and not on the animals. I would rather see a place with fantastic breeding programs and proof of release back into the wild than just a "show" place to make money.

Realspeed
 
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#7
You changed post 4 again ... :shrug:

Perhaps one of the mods could tidy this up please?

In the meantime ...

Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WHF) has already committed to work for the protection of the Amur Leopard, found in the Russian Far East. Only 30 individuals are thought to survive in the wild. Through support to charities and non-governmental organisations working in the field, WHF is helping ensure these rare cats do not decrease further in numbers. Given the very low wild population, protection of this species by captive breeding is vital whilst the details of a programme of re-introductions is established and importantly fully funded. At our Kent centre we hold animals from the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which is a European wide zoo based project to maintain genetically sound animals for possible future return to their home range area. We will establish at least one Amur Leopard breeding pair at our centre as part of our contribution to the EEP. We have co-operated with Novosibirsk Zoo in the Russian Federation in order that male leopards bred at their zoo are available to UK breeding centres.

With our colleagues at Paradise Wildlife Park (Hertfordshire, UK) we are supporting efforts in Africa to protect diminishing wild lion populations from diseases associated with the ever-increasing human population of that region. By funding vaccine programmes for domestic dogs we are helping reduce the incidents of canine distemper virus in the lion population. Current estimates are that the total African lion population may have been reduced to around 16,000 animals — a matter so serious that it has been suggested this animal should be accorded the highest level of legal protection at a series of international meetings in late 2004.
 

Grendel

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#8
On reflection my previous post was deleted as it appeared anti the place which I AM NOT. What I strongly object to is places that claim to do conservation work with animals, yet spend loads of cash on buildings etc to make the establishment worth a fortune and not on the animals. I would rather see a place with fantastic breeding programs and proof of release back into the wild than just a "show" place to make money.

Realspeed
Yet in your post in the WHF booking thread, you criticised the place for not providing platforms for photographers (which are absolutely not needed) and suggested they should spend some of the money they make from these TP meets to build some :shrug:

I'm not sure why, but you seem intent on criticising the WHF at every opportunity, based on ill informed non-facts. Can I suggest you have a proper look at their web site to understand the fantastic opportunity this place provides for photographers and the incredible work they do for the conservation and preservation of these magnificent animals.

Back on topic - Yvonne, brilliant review with some amazing images! :clap:
 
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#9
Yvonne, brilliant review with some amazing images! :clap:
There's nothing brilliant at all when she calls me "a point and shoot numpty" [in the other thread] or "miserable"! :sulk:

I don't mind being called a cynic though and even as a cynic, the WHF is a wonderful place to visit and support. I can't really add much to Yv's word picture except to say to realspeed and everyone else that the WHF might conceivably not be the absolute best use of conservation dollars; frankly I don't know. I do know however that it is a phenominal, life-affirming day out. It is as exciting as, and morally far better than, swimming with dolphins! It is something you remember for a long time.
 
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Has anyone got any pics of Nias, the amazingly gorgeous male Sumatran tiger? I hope we see him. Thats really why I'm going! lol well the other cats too, but he's a stunner from the looks of the whf photos. :)
 

Grendel

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#11
Your wish is my command ;). I give you Nias :love:

 
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#12
I thought i would add a few words, i didnt know what to expect last year on our first tirp down, and it was me and my wifes first tp meet. We decided to take the plunge and booked up. we travelled down the day before (its a fair trip down from scotland) got there on time on the sat and we were greeted by Kev (hypnotic) and got to know the other tp members who were all friendly, well nearly all except that nudger MD :LOL::LOL:. the WHF is a great place and we came away with some great shots. My wife has some mobility problems and was using her mobility scooter, everyone at the meet couldnt have been nicer and helped her when ever she needed, so if you do have any mobilty issues dont let that stop you, im sure the staff can sort something out. Anyway to get to the point, it was a fantastic day and we decided to book again this year since it was such a good day, Imho its well worth the money and travelling all the way down for.
Heres some of my shots from last year, and there are better togs than me so if i can get half good results then anybody can (y)







So get your selfs over the the booking thread and get your name down, you won't regret it (y)
 
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Yv

Yv

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#14
Thanks to those that have posted and added their own images.

Brian [MrGubby] has given me permission to post these from his own visits which will give you more of an idea of how close you are going to get to these creatures.



Dont try this at home!







I wouldnt try this one with the Amur Leopards though! :LOL:



So, as you can see, even the simplest of kit will get you some good shots and the staff are very good at getting the animals moving around in the enclosures and away from the fences to give you plenty of opportunity to capture them more naturally and focus out that fence.



I also want to add about the visitors centre - to my memory, they have spent some 3 yrs building it as far as I recall [I am sure Kev or Ian can give a more accurate time on this] and is basically a fancy log cabin, so it certainly hasn't been done as a money waster and is very much needed.
 
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#16
Wow, thanks for the review booked my place before reading this and now can't wait to go, oh well only a couple more months :). Looking forward to seeing the photos of the earlier trips as well to get a few ideas.

Will make a change to try and photograph something that isn't moving at over 200mph.....
 
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#17
I haven't bought my first SLR yet but have booked a day with the big cats. Now I think I need to get on and choose a camera. Those pictures are stunning.
 
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Yv

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#18
The 1st visit of this year is this weekend, so hope to see a whole load of new pictures next week.

If you are on this weekends trip, please do post a review/report about your day here in this thread.

If you haven't booked yet, there are places left for trips later in the year so do visit the thread in Meeting Place or PM Brian [Digital Failure] (y)
 

joescrivens

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#19
Hi there,

I wasn't able to make a trip to the WHF on any of the days listed so I decided to go on a normal day. I had a fantastic time. It really is a superb place. The thing I couldn't believe was how easy it was to take great photos there. I had seen photos from others o here and I was thinking, if only I could take photos like that. But it is so well set out and the subjects are so awesome that you can't help but take great photos. I took around 600 pics in the day and I can't believe how many keepers got, probably like 500. I find myself throwing away great shots because I have too many.

Here are a few of my favs:

1


2


3


4


5


6


There were only 8 people in my group thankfully, anymore would have been a bit of a challenge I would say. The cats tend to come up to a particular area and if you aren't in the right spot you have to take photos from an angle and it can be a challenge to do so without getting the green mesh in the way. The other great thing was that the other 7 people weren't really into photography in a huge way, only 2 of them had dSLRs, the rest were shooting with compacts. This meant that they weren't bothered about me getting into the right place every time so I was always able to grab the best shots. The downside is that I didn't have anyone to share ideas and kit with.

I took a 70-200 L f/4 IS and a 100mm L 2.8 IS. I used the 100mm more than the 70-200 mainly because the cats come up so close that I needed a short focussing distance. To be honest I think I could have done the whole day with the 100mm and even that was a bit too long for most of it, on a full frame body I reckon 100 would have been just right. I found myself struggling to get the whole head with the ears in a lot of the time.

If you have a 70-200 2.8 I would leave that bad boy at home, the mesh is big but theres no chance you could fit that lens through the mesh, I couldn't with either my 70-200 f4 or my 100.

Andy Porter took us round and he was a nice guy. Plus his photography was awesome so it was easy to take his advice.

Now to carry on processing the pics!
 

Marc

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#20
If you have a 70-200 2.8 I would leave that bad boy at home, the mesh is big but theres no chance you could fit that lens through the mesh, I couldn't with either my 70-200 f4 or my 100.
Glad to hear you had a good time Joe. On the subject of the 70-200, it the lens I use for 99% of the shots I take there. If you hold the lens against the mesh so that the centre of the element is at the center of one of the squares, the mesh isn't a problem. The petal hood on mine is actually the perfect size to lock on to one of the squares and it means you can even turn it slichtly to shoot at an angle it needed.
 

joescrivens

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Glad to hear you had a good time Joe. On the subject of the 70-200, it the lens I use for 99% of the shots I take there. If you hold the lens against the mesh so that the centre of the element is at the center of one of the squares, the mesh isn't a problem. The petal hood on mine is actually the perfect size to lock on to one of the squares and it means you can even turn it slichtly to shoot at an angle it needed.
good to know, I guess that works if you are square on, becomes more tricky at an angle, I found anything more than about 30 degrees and I started seeing green, particularly on some of the smaller mesh

here's another one

 
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