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Thu, 23 Jul 2015
wolf photo shooting at the wolf science center (0 comments)
we tried a new zoo; this time the zoo in ernstbrunn. the wolf science center in particular, as we had a photo shooting with wolves there. we had already booked that in february, and have been looking forward to that ever since. it was a very hot day (as so many this summer), and we were instructed beforehand to wear long trousers, solid shoes and a t-shirt, nothing to be made of wool or leather. after a short introduction for the small group of nine people we started with the first part[001-036] of the day. we entered the first enclosure of the "black pack". the pack consists of five members, namely chitto, shima, tala eristoff and two males called aragorn and kaspar; but the two were not allowed to join us. to get to know each other we were given little snacks for the wolves that we could hide in the area. as soon as we were done the wolves were let out (or actually in), and ran through the enclosure, sniffing at everything and everyone.
at first of course only the treats were interesting and all the animals were busy finding the good stuff. once this was done, they approached the human visitors. they had their own code for "hey, don't stand around, pet me" or "noop, no touchy", which were deciphered for us by the staff. but most of them were in a good mood, so we got to pet a lot of wolf fur. after a while one of them even started to lick me, which is (like for dogs) the wolf way of saying "hey there". unfortunately it took me too long to respond to that friendly gesture appropriately because the wolf was already heading on to the next visitor, while i was still overwhelmed by the wet friendliness. but i was very, very honored, because i was the only one who got licked in the face by a wolf that day (according to nina, this was only because i look like a wolf).
part two[037-112] was about action shots with the same pack members. we all moved to a different area of the pretty huge enclosure where the wolves were supposed to run through the bushes. there are several enclosures for the wolves at the game park ernstbrunn, two of them 8000 square metres, and another two of them with 4000 square metres each. so plenty of space for the animals.
the wolves had loads of fun, and once they were done running, they lay down panting and took a little rest. they rested only a few metres away from us, so a good opportunity to shoot some more pictures.
then we left this enclosure and the "black pack", and returned to the base. there i switched my lens to a tele-lens. unfortunately you are allowed to only bring your camera with the lens on it to the wolves, nothing more. no rucksack, no telephones, no dangling things like tassels or straps, as the wolves might easily use all that to play with and pull you around or chew it to death. after all, they are pretty massive and strong, and the staff told us about several destroyed items, like mobile phones, and such. by the way, you are not allowed to wear gloves in winter. for the third part[113-195] we entered the enclosure of geronimo's pack, consisting of geronimo, yukon and wamblee. unfortunately wamblee was not allowed to join us, as he was nervous around visitors lately. the people at the WSC really try to be on the very safe side - for humans and wolves. so if they feel there might be troubles with a wolf, they keep the animal out of the enclosure while the people are in there. i guess they would do the same with humans if they felt like there could be any threat or risk - but none of our group was excluded. i also would have liked to have wamblee included as he was one of the black/gray timber wolves, and i find them more beautiful and interesting than the white ones. but meeting geronimo and yukon was also a very exquisite experience. the two wolves were very different from the other ones in the "black pack". more shy, a little more cautious; hardly getting close to the visitors, not seeking any close contact or coming close to get touched.
but they had their fun with a sprinkler in a dried up pond. or at least geronimo had. yukon was a lady at first, trying not to get wet. but soon she also enjoyed the cooling water and jumped into the spray. all members of the human pack watched with envy.
after a while the wolves kept more and more distance to us, and the staff sensed some kind of nervousness amongst the two wolves. so - again for safety for wolf and human - they decided we should better leave them alone to keep the stress level to a minimum.
after that we had a break to get something to drink and eat (remember, you are not allowed to bring anything to the wolves, so we were pretty thirsty and also a little hungry, as the wolves got tons of treats and we got nothing). fed, refreshed, and after a short after-dinner walk through other parts of the game park ernstbrunn[194-195] we started with part four[196-199] of the day. this time the pack was not a wolven one, but a dog pack, namely the "nia pack", consisting of nia, gombo, and sahibu. the wsc keeps dog packs to in order to compare them to the wolf pack. their research is all about cooperation, intellectual strategies, all within the pack but also while interacting with human beings. so they keep the dogs the same way they keep the wolves, with the same training and tests. all the dogs of the "nia pack" were overwhelmed by a massive amount of joy to see the staff and more new people they could get to play with. in fact they were close to being hyper active, they were trying to lick anyone's face that got close to their tongue. i think no member of the human pack was prepared for that, so everyone was like standing there frozen, because the dogs would instantly slap their tongues into your face as soon as you would reach down to pet them. only nina was brave enough to risk crouching down; within a few seconds she was rewarded with a clean face and ears. since no one else could really cope with such an overdose of friendliness by the super happy dogs, we went on to the last part of the day, and left the cute dogs again.
the fifth part[200-251] was real fun. we were brought to the enclosure of the "nanuk pack" (aka the "white pack"), with nanuk and una as members. here we took some action shots with the two wolves. they were running right towards the human pack. while that looked real great in real, my camera gear and i are not really well suited for this kind of shooting. almost all shots were out of focus and blurry, thus unusable to end up in the gallery; and the remaining ones also were not sharp. oh well, i might have to train that one day - maybe.
both wolves really were so cute and adorable. especially nanuk, who was so eager to get to the people to get cuddled, and who so much enjoyed sniffing people and taking in their scent as much as possible, which meant he rubbed his body on every person being near him. again this gave a little insight into how strong those graceful creatures actually are. another highlight was the "portrait shooting". each participant could get a picture with nanuk right next to him or her. while nanuk was more happy with the tons of treats he got, everyone kneeling right beside him had fun. nanuk did not get tired of giving the paw and sitting right next to all the people. he really is a gentle soul. una unfortunately was rather shy, and stuck more to the staff people, she already knew and was familiar with.
once everyone had their picture with nanuk taken, we returned to the "black pack" again, but this time we did not enter the enclosure, but waited right outside the fence to witness a special reward for the animals. this time kaspar and aragorn joined in too. chitto, shima, tala eristoff, kaspar, and aragorn got ice lollipops. this meant meat and blood frozen and then attached to trees with metal chains, so the wolves could lick and bite it, and cool off a bit.
and it seemed they really liked that and had had that already quite often, because they knew what was awaiting them. so happily each wolf worked on their iced lolly - and again all members of the human pack were pretty envious.
to get in touch with real wolves - without a fence (or car door windows as it was in canada) is really an impressive experience. it was also astonishing to see that each wolf has its own character, moods, quirks, and fetishes. so if you ever get the opportunity to go to the wolf science center - do it. we really recommend it. you also get a good insight into the research work the scientists there are doing. furthermore it is interesting to see where there are similarities between dog and wolf, and where not. a total of 797 photos were shot by me this day, 290 made it to the online gallery - enjoy the gallery.

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