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Folly Farm Zookeeper travels the world

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Jack with rangers: At Ujung Kulon National Park

Jack with rangers: At Ujung Kulon National Park

IN A BID to improve his knowledge of conservation and research of the critically endangered Javan and Sumatran rhinos, a 24- year old zookeeper from Pembroke has travelled to Indonesia on a rhino expedition.

Jack Gradidge is a rhino keeper at Folly Farm and is responsible for two eastern black rhinos, Manyara and Nkosi, living at their latest enclosure in the Kifaru Reserve.

Self-funding his trip, Jack travelled to Singapore and two Indonesian islands, Java and Sumatra, with keepers from the Aspinal Foundation in a bid to learn as much as he could about the Asian rhinos and hopefully catch a glimpse of one in the wild.

Jack, who joined Folly Farm in 2014 after finishing an Animal Management Degree at Sparsholt College, has already visited zoos across the world, including Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia, and hopes to continue to travel, learning as much as he can about the animals.

“I have a great relationship with the rhino keepers at the Aspinal Foundation and they were going to the International Elephant and Rhino Conservation and Research Symposium hosted by Singapore Zoo and I decided to join them and planned to visit a few national parks.

“We organised a four-day expedition in Java where we spent most of our time with local rangers, chatting all things rhino and exchanging stories about the ones we care for back home.

“There is said to be only 63 Javan rhinos left in the wild. The rangers have identified all 63 rhinos at the Ujung Kulon National Park using camera traps and each now has a name. This is the only place Javan rhinos exist in the world.

“We patrolled the parks and spent time tracking the wild animals, looking at their footprints, mud wallows and trail of poo. We were on a canoe travelling down a river and we actually heard a rhino crashing through the forest; they were just metres away.”

“We then travelled up to Sumatra where there are just 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild and their population is fragmented, which means they can’t reach each other to breed. We visited a semi-wild reserve in the Way Kambas National Park, where we got to meet four of the seven rhinos, including a small calf, Delilah, who was just six months old.

“This was great, as we’re expecting a breeding female to join the two rhinos at Folly Farm next year and hope to hear the pitter patter of tiny rhino feet in the future.

“The whole experience was just amazing, I’ve learned so much and will be able to feedback to the keepers and visitors at Folly Farm about the pressure the world’s rhinos are facing. I’m so passionate about their conservation – I want to learn as much as possible.”

Folly Farm raises money for the Rhino Dog Squad appeal by Save the Rhino at Kifaru Reserve. All money raised will help train dogs and dog handlers as they play a vital role in protecting rhinos across wildlife conservancies by tracking the scent of rhinos, their horns, guns and ammunition as well as being able to attack poachers in order to disable the gun holding arm.

“I don’t know what it is about rhinos, they’re just so sensitive and surprisingly affectionate. I’ve always loved animals. I grew up on a sheep farm in Wiltshire, and I had a lot of animal toys when I was growing up – I even used to make my own little zoos.

“When I returned from being away for three weeks, the rhinos were a bit grumpy as if to say ‘where have you been?’, but soon warmed up after a few hours. They love attention – especially Nkosi, who rolls over to be scratched and likes a good belly rub. Manyara’s a bit more reserved and likes her own space, but she does love showers, especially when it’s hot.

“They’re also incredibly intelligent animals. Manyara has been doing some target training where she has to touch a ball on a stick to get a treat, and she’s also been doing some mouth training so it’s easier for us to get to their teeth and check their oral health. They have a very strange mouth with hooked lips that helps them browse the trees and shrubs, and huge teeth to crush the branches.”

The rhinos’ daily routine starts with checking they are happy and healthy, before their morning feeds are made up and given to them.

The outside exhibits are then cleaned while the rhinos are eating inside, before they are let out again and provided with any enrichment they need.

Jack continued: “When you get to work with such amazing animals, it doesn’t feel like a job at all. The best part is seeing the animals content and happy, and I particularly like feeding time because of the contact and closeness you get to experience with the animals.”

With fewer than 650 eastern black rhinos left in the wild, the IUCN Red List categorises them as critically endangered and they will be the 16th European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, of which Folly Farm is an active member.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

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A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of senior council officers.

In November 2020, Mr Westley left Pembrokeshire County Council with a £95,000 pay-out, something which has been criticised by a number of councillors.

In a document before the Audit and Governance Committee on Tuesday (April 13), it says that termination payments to Chief Officers are routinely examined by Audit Wales but in the case of Mr Westley, the audit team was unable to locate a recorded decision to enter into the settlement agreement which led to a termination payment being made to the Chief Executive.

An Audit Office spokesperson said: “This appeared unusual and therefore the audit team decided to undertake an early examination of the process that resulted in the payment being made.”

No complaints were raised, by councillors or any other body, with Audit Wales but the number of concerns and questions being raised at following council meetings prompted them to commence an audit.

Audit Wales state: “Our audit fieldwork is substantially complete. However due to the complex nature of some of the issues involved we considered it necessary to take some external legal
advice. We are currently considering that advice. 

“In the near future we will draft a document setting out our provisional findings and conclusions. 

“Once this document is ready we will commence a clearance process to confirm factual accuracy. 

“If the document contains criticism of identifiable individuals, in the first instance we will provide those individuals with any extracts of the document that pertain to them. Once
we have confirmed the factual accuracy with individuals, we will send the full draft document to the Council’s Chief Executive to identify any remaining factual inaccuracies. 

“We will only issue the finalised document once the clearance process has been completed. #

“We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process.”

Only a handful of senior officers were involved in the procedure surrounding Ian Westley’s departure.

The inference which can be safely drawn from Audit Wales’ report to the Audit Committee is that some of its content will be critical either of councillors, senior officers, or both.

The process of asking those named to respond is known as Maxwellisation, a legal practice that allows persons who are to be criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication.

The report highlights the exceptional nature of the case at Pembrokeshire County Council and demonstrates the sensitivity of the issues raised.

If senior officers are sharply criticised or found to have failed in their duty to their employer, they will almost certainly have to go.

The council’s interim Chief Executive will read the document after maxwellisation.

It is also likely that the council’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Will Bramble, will have a chance to see it.

The Audit Wales spokesperson added: “We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process. We are unable to respond to queries about our emerging findings whilst the audit is progressing, and until we have finalised our conclusions.”

In January, Cllr Jamie Adams had called for the council to commence an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure but that was deferred to allow for the Audit Wales review to be completed.

Cllr Adams said that the decision of payment should have been a ‘democratic decision’ and has asked why that wasn’t the case.

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