Portrait of a sand cat

Rare Species Conservation Centre

The Rare Species Conservation Centre is a fantastic little sanctuary located just outside of Sandwich, Kent.  Formed in 2006, the centre is dedicated to preserving the world’s lesser known rare and endangered species of animals which are often overlooked by the bigger and more mainstream zoos.

The volunteers were extremely friendly and well informed about the animals in their care.  It was also obvious that everyone there was passionate about conservation.

Todd’s announcement of the closure of rare species conservation centre was met with much dismay by all its supporters.  Not surprising considering what an amazing place it is.  I guess Todd must have been overwhelmed by all the messages of support because much to our delight, he promised to open RSCC one last time so that people could come back to say goodbye.

I only learned of the place back in April and I have loved every visit I made there.

It’s not the biggest of zoos but it was unique in that there is no other zoo in the country where one had such easy access to newborn animals.  Had it not been for Todd and his staff, I would not have photographs of Fishing Cat kittens or a Rusty Spotted Kitten growing up.  It was also home to Pamir, a Pallas cat who I’ve watched since she was a kitten at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

As a photographer, the rare species conservation centre was a dream location.  The keepers always made a point of letting me know which animals they were feeding to allow me to gain the best photo opportunities and on occasion, they even fed some of the cats early in order to help me get the pictures I wanted.  Nor will I ever forget the countless hours I spent on my knees gaining the trust of the young kittens.

We arrived around 11am and from the notice on the door, saw that the collection was much reduced.  Of the animals that I loved, the only ones that still remained were the juvenile Fishing Cats, the Rusty Spotted Cats, the Black Footed Cat, the Desert Sand Cats and the Jaguarundi.

Below is a selection of some of my favourite images from the summer. Click on an image to see a larger version.

I am going to miss the antics of Ping, the smooth coated otter and the crazy boky bokys, but most of all, I will miss the fishing cats kittens and the rusty spotted baby. I had had the privilege of watching from when they were 5 days old to 5 months old and the thought of not being able to watch them grow to adulthood filled me with sadness.

I was also going to miss Short Face and Long Face – as the first Fishing Cats I had ever photographed, they held a very special place in my heart. It has been an absolute pleasure watching them grow from juveniles into beautiful and powerful adults. Sure, I could visit them in their new homes but they would not be as accessible as they had been.

Farewell rare species conservation centre, I will miss you and its residents.