The much-anticipated ‘Wings of Africa’ display at Hampshire’s Hawk Conservancy Trust will be launched this Easter, starring new birds and, for the first time, meerkats.
‘Wings of Africa’ will be performed every morning at 11.30am, throughout the main season, and will feature birds new to the Trust, including Sacred Ibis, as well as old friends the Secretary Bird , Milky Eagle Owl, African Fish Eagle and vultures. The demonstration will also have spectacular special effects that will mirror the birds’ natural habitat, including a bushfire and storm.
With birds swooping overhead and smoke drifting over the Savannah Arena and the crackle of fire, visitors will be able to experience what it is really like to be in the midst of an African bushfire.
In 2015, the Hawk Conservancy Trust marks its 50th anniversary with celebrations being held throughout the year at its visitor centre situated just off the A303, near Andover. The Wings of Africa display has ensured that the occasion is commemorated with something truly special that will be remembered by all who see it.
Visitors are in for a real treat when meerkats appear for the first time in the Trust’s history. Gary Benton, Assistant Curator at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, and the mastermind behind the new display, says: “Meerkats are a first for us, but really bring to life the African theme and we are all enjoying getting to know them and working with them. We’ve carefully choreographed the display to ensure the meerkats and birds of prey don’t actually come into contact with each other though. The meerkats are never in danger of becoming someone’s lunch!”
The Hawk Conservancy Trust has long been famed for its spectacular flying displays, and the new demonstration takes this to an even higher level, allowing audiences to be entertained while also getting a real insight into what it would be like to see these amazing creatures in their natural setting.
Gary adds: “Wings of Africa features some really awesome birds and shows the audience what a day in their life would be like. We’ll also be able to see just how different the birds are. Each of them flies and hunts in a different way to the others, and we have introduced a non-bird of prey into the mix as well, with the Sacred Ibis. The ibis is often found hanging around with vultures. They’re known as nature’s hoovers because they will hoover a carcass of insects. They are fascinating creatures and it’s fantastic to have them here in Andover.”
The inspiration for the new show came from the conservation work the Trust has been doing in Africa. Gary explains: “We’ve been going out to Africa to study and ring wild vultures and while there we’ve been very lucky to see amazing wildlife spectacles. We wanted to bring some of that to people here at home, and encourage our visitors to understand why these birds are so special and deserve our protection.”
The Hawk Conservancy is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm. The Wings of Africa display at 11.30am is followed by the Valley of the Eagles flying demonstration at 2pm and a Woodland Owls and Hawks demonstration at 3.45pm. Each display is unique, with its own grounds, showcasing different birds and allowing the audience to have a close encounter with amazing birds of prey.