A tiny animal is lucky to be alive after being abandoned by its mother on the coldest day of the year in Doncaster.
Jack the mara – the species looks like a cross between a rabbit and a small deer – was minutes from death when he was discovered by staff at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
The tiny pup was covered in mud and sleet next to his still born sibling at the entrance to a burrow, in the park’s South America Viva section after their mother gave birth but failed to nurture them.
“He was at death’s door and it was the coldest day of the year so he was clinging on to survival,” said the park’s Colin Northcott. “He was floppy when they found him and in another 10 or 15 minutes and he wouldn’t have made it. “We think his mother was a first time mum and didn’t know what to do. Normally, litters are born deep in the burrow but these were left at the entrance.” Staff at the park at Branton, near Doncaster, wrapped Jack in tea-towels and put him under a heat lamp in frantic attempts to restore warmth and life. “He was in a bad way but we got him warm and stimulated the circulation and thankfully he responded,” Colin, the deputy leader of the park’s primates section, added. “He slowly came back to life and we have been hand rearing him and feeding him from a bottle to get him going.” Jack’s weight has tripled to 1,200 grams and is on target for a full recovery. Maras are a member of the rodent family, whose existence in their home territory Argentina, is becoming increasingly threatened. The Yorkshire Wildlife Park has a colony of 30 maras and Jack will be re-integrated once he is weaned at about six weeks. He is now a pampered guest at Colin’s home, 10 minutes from the park, and has made friends with his two cats. “Jack has made himself well at home and is intrigued by the TV and has sat down to stare at The Chase quiz show,” he said. “I think he is fascinated with the colours.” Maras are hunted by predators and also man for their meat and skin. They grow to the average height and weight of a Spaniel but can walk, hop, gallop and bounce on all four legs and some have been clocked at 40 mph. They mate for life and normally have a litter of one to three pups every year. “Jack is a miracle but we are looking forward to re-introducing him to the colony where he should have a full life,” Colin said. Jack was born on February 10.