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Video/Gallery: Raptured by raptors and the cheeky meerkats at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

12:51 06 January 2014

The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns, Stonham Aspal.
Matthew Lott, with Lincoln, the Bald Eagle.

The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns, Stonham Aspal. Matthew Lott, with Lincoln, the Bald Eagle.

The team at a Suffolk animal centre which cares for birds of prey ahve to be prepared to deal with whatever comes through their doors all-year round.

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Meerkats in the sunshine at The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns, Stonham Aspal.Meerkats in the sunshine at The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns, Stonham Aspal.

Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, at Stonham Barns, near Stowmarket, cares for about 60 birds of prey found in differing states of health each year.

It has its own “raptor hospital” which is open 362 days a year for people to bring in the injured animals.

Centre manager, Andy Hulme, said even if a bird is found on one of the three bank holidays it is not open, a member of staff will be on hand at the end of a telephone.

“It really depends on the weather for how many injured birds we get come in,” he said.

“A couple of years ago we had 116 birds which was an incredible number. But the average is about 60 a year.

“We can get younger birds coming in around May/June time which may have fallen out of their nests and people have picked them up. We will get road traffic accidents – that’s the biggest cause for people bringing them in – it’s about 90% of injuries.

“Birds in the autumn – when the youngster are leaving the nest – some of them run into troubles. Starvation, or not catching enough food are the main causes. During the winter we get birds that come in starving.”

The centre has formed a good relationship with Stow Veterinary Group, in Stowmarket, which can provide higher levels of care if the bird is critically injured.

A team from the centre also play an important role in preserving and attempting to enhance the number of birds of prey in the region.

A total of 260 nest boxes for barn owls have been put up giving the beautiful creatures an environment to nurture their young.

“The two guys who run the project have access to go up to the nest boxes and check, it’s not something the general public can do because you need a licence,” Mr Hulme said.

“It’s an important part of what we do and all the records go to the British Trust of Ornithology.”

There can large differences in the numbers of young barn owls recorded. In 2012, 97 chicks were ringed compared to just 19 last year. Mr Hulme said weather was again a major factor which affected the numbers.

The centre is also known for its flying displays from its around 90 birds of prey.

Birds range from the intimidating bald eagle, which weighs in at eight pounds, to the smaller American kestrel which is just eight three ounces.

It is not only owls and birds of prey which inhabit the centre. Two pairs of red squirrels and 16 meerkats are a major reason why families are drawn to the centre.

The sanctuary, which is set in three acres of land, was established in 1995 but it was not until about six years later that it changed to becoming a registered charity.

It relies on three forms of funding – visitors coming to the centre, bird adoption fees and grants.

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