He’s tough, likes to be boss and has an impressive pair of horns – meet Rambo, one of the new additions to the animals at New Forest Wildlife Park.
Rambo is a mouflon, a type of wild sheep that was probably one of the ancestors of all modern domestic sheep breeds. The dominant male, he has settled in well at New Forest Wildlife Park near Ashurst since being introduced to the park in May and is accompanied by two other males and two females named Martha and Mabel. It’s hoped the mouflon will breed.
Mouflon are classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, since their numbers in the wild have declined markedly in the last few decades. Often hunted for their horns or meat, they are also under threat due to competition with domestic livestock.
Originally found in counties such as Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Oman, Kashmir, Azerbaijan and Pakistan, they were domesticated by humans around 10,500 years ago and brought to Europe. They can now be found wild in mountainous regions of Europe such as Cyprus, Corsica, Sardinia and parts of Italy.
The mouflon’s coat is red-brown in colour with a dark area along its back, lighter side patches and white underparts. Both the males and females can grow horns, but those of the males are more notable, being large, curved and spiral and sometimes reaching around 25 inches in length.
In the wild mouflon tend to live in mountainous terrain and on steep rocky ledges, where they can get away from predators, though they can also be found in grasslands, desert and forest. They graze on short grasses, heather, and shrubs and have a multi-chambered stomach which enables them to regurgitate the tough plants they feed on and chew them a second time to make them softer.
“The mouflon have adapted well to life at New Forest Wildlife Park and are proving popular with visitors,” said NFWP owner Carol Heap. “They are quite laid back but also curious creatures.
“Mouflon are a declining species in the wild, where they are in danger of being interbred with domestic sheep. The mouflon has been an integral part of human history and development for thousands of years so we’re glad to have them here in the park and to play our part in their conservation.”
About New Forest Wildlife Park
New Forest Wildlife Park is set in 25 acres of beautiful woodland, and has many amazing animals to see in natural settings. There are free-roaming roe, sika and fallow deer, along with Asian short-clawed, giant, North American River and Eurasian otters. You can also see lynx, Scottish wildcats, wolves, wallabies, foxes, wild boar, giant otters, European bison, red deer, polecats, pine martens, ferrets and several species of owls.
There are two fabulous adventure playgrounds – Go Wild and Mini Go Wild – where children can let off steam, have fun and challenge their climbing, swinging, bouncing and balancing abilities.
New Forest Wildlife Park rescues injured and abandoned wildlife, such as orphaned otters, in association with the RSPCA and is involved in international captive breeding programmes for endangered species, such as the giant otter.
Roger and Carol Heap are celebrating 30 years of running wildlife parks this year, since they set up NFWP’s sister park, the Chestnut Centre in Derbyshire, in 1984 after looking after rescued otters in their back garden.
In 2014 the New Forest Tour red bus route is stopping at NFWP between June and September, allowing visitors to explore the New Forest car free.
The New Forest Wildlife Park is at Deerleap Lane, Longdown, Marchwood, Southampton, SO41 4UH. Tel 02380 292408. www.newforestwildlifepark.co.uk New Forest Wildlife Park is a Wildlife Investor of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.