Since summer 2009, groups of children have visited the Wadadli Animal Nature Park and been enchanted, even as Dave Joseph’s project – at Long Lane Estate – remains a work-in-progress.
“Six years I’ve been working on it, taking my time and working on it,” Joseph said.
If you Google Joseph, you’ll be reminded, of course, that he’s a former West Indies cricketer, his short stint with the regional side taking place in the late 1990s. But chat with him and you’ll learn he’s also the product of a livestock farming background, and a sheep and goat farmer in his own right.
His new pet project – previewed during the 2009 Staycation expo – builds on his animal husbandry experience.
“I run the farm down below,” he explained from the Park which sits on a rising and offers a panoramic view, “and was just thinking of something to really maximise the animals.”
As he tours the facility – son and nephew in tow, stopping to feed and pet the animals along the way – explaining not only what’s there but what will be if he has his way, he paints an appealing picture.
The buildings at the entrance, they’re earmarked, respectively, for a restaurant with benches and tree-cover for outdoor eating, and a visitor centre complete with collectibles-for-sale. A little further in you have the makings of an aquarium.
Meanwhile, the varied trees along the winding path of the 10 acre facility will be tagged, and at some point, Joseph’s cricketing buddies and the media will be invited in for a tree planting and naming exercise.
It’s not all for show; this is a man who says of the environment, “When I stop and think that what the plants actually breathe out is what we need to breathe in, we need to plant more trees.”
The tree planting also serves a more immediate practical purpose.
“I plan to plant a lot of fruit trees to incorporate and use them as juices in the bar instead of a lot of sodas,” Joseph said.
There’s a pond for family fishing excursions, among other things. And there are hints of the site’s colonial era roots in the stones, cane-cutting tools and even headstones that have been unearthed.
As for the animals, what’s there already is just a fraction of the big picture. Macaws, snakes, guineas, even pigs are among the future plans. But already, Joseph has a mix of farm and exotic animals that have delighted visitors to the unique facility. A favourite is Jack, the spider monkey.
“He’s a very healthy eating guy,” Joseph said, affectionately, as the monkey eagerly grabbed the pawpaw – its favourite – from his hand and proceeded to devour it.
Other residents of the Wadadli Animal Nature Park include the boer goats from South Africa – bigger and thicker than the goats we’re familiar with here, the surprisingly brisk land turtles, the always colourful peacocks, the geese and ducks, the donkeys – three of them, including a near new born foal, the cow, white and fluffy rabbits, silkies – hens with especially thick plumage, plenty of pigeons and lovebirds, a pair of fallow deer from Barbuda, iguanas, and soldier crabs.
Though not formally opened as yet, it’s easy to see why the park has already attracted and delighted school groups from pre to secondary; and, as Joseph sees it, the collection should appeal to tourists as well.