Earlier this year we launched our 'name the otter contest' and last week we welcomed Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie to unveil the plaque underneath our friend on the rock. You may remember we set out to name the bronze otter sitting on the rock at Otter Point at Eriska, in conjunction with our 40th anniversary as a Hotel. You may remember we announced the winner, Jo Thompson? if not here's a quick recap!
The Bronze Sculpture
Wache was made by bronze sculptor Kenneth Robertson, using advanced techniques, initially creating a wire meshed mould which was then cast as a simple albino plaster. Ensuring he fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential and it was moulded to fit a particular rock looking a specific way to guard the island. This took several visits and much hard work from Kenneth and his son.
Dr. Jo Thompson & 'Name the Otter Contest'
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out to get our friend a name earlier in the summer. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher'.
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organisation overseeing a variety of conservation efforts in the deep heart of equatorial Africa. By profession, she is a primatologist and naturalist.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is a contributing author to several books about ecology, distribution and evolution. Since 1995 Jo has been involved with otter conservation, which started with her raising an infant Congo Clawless Otter. At that time, the species had recently been declared extinct. However, that classification was based on absence of reports not absence of the otters. So, she was launched into the world of otter conservation as the world expert on the Congo Clawless Otter species. Through her work she also met Victoria Miller from Oban, which is how Jo found out about our little contest!
As we mentioned above we received Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie last week to unveil the plaque we got made for Wache this summer. They have had Basenjis for years, and on the top picture you see them with their Basenji, Cassie - the whole reason Jo found out about our otter contest! Unfortunately Jo could not come with us to unveil the plaque being attached to the rock so they brought Cassie instead!
The First Meeting
Victoria met Jo through and online forum and a mutual friend. They met for the first time in person when Jo was speaking at the Hope4Apes conference in London 2010, hosted by Sir David Attenborough. Helena Lane (fellow breeder) and Victoria travelled to London to meet with Jo Thompson to discuss the possibility of importing one of Jo’s Lukuru Basenji puppies. The following year (September 2011), Cassie was imported into the UK - the first Congolese Native Basenji since the early foundation stock. Although born in the USA, Cassie was bred from pure Native stock brought back by Jo from a conservation area in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are no other dogs except the Native Basenjis. Cassie is the first truly African Basenji to arrive in the UK for 70 years!
"Cassie had 7 pups this summer, 31st July, which is why the visit has had to wait! Cassie and the pups are healthy and enjoy life off the west coast of Scotland", Victoria assures me. "Cassie's parents are on the other side of the planet, living the 'American Dream' with Jo". All this talk about Basenjis, you have to start wondering about the breed itself.
The size of a Fox Terrier, the Basenji has a wrinkled brow, prick ears, pliant skin, short tight curled tail, very short coat and wash themselves like a cat. They are a hunting dog capable of very high speeds who point and flush game, but their most unique features are they are barkless and carry no dog odours, a most useful asset when they are in pursuit of game who do not easily pick up their scent. Discovered in the African Congo with Pygmy hunters, early explorers called the dogs after the tribes that owned them or the area in which they were found, such as Zande dogs or Congo terriers. The native tribes used the dogs (which often wore large bells around their necks) as pack hunters, driving game into nets.
Early attempts to bring Basenjis to England in the late 1800s and early 1900s were unsuccessful because the dogs all succumbed to distemper. In the 1930s, a few dogs were successfully brought back to England and became the foundation (along with subsequent imports from the Congo and Sudan) of the breed outside of Africa. The name Basenji, or "bush thing," was chosen. The early imports attracted much attention, and soon after the Basenji was brought to America. The breed's popularity as both a pet and show dog grew modestly but steadily. In the 1950s, a surge of popularity occurred as a result of a book and movie featuring a Basenji!
All this talk about Basenjis, what is your relationship to the otter side of things?
"As you can see I took my otter t-shirt out for the occasion! No really, my relationship with otters is mainly through Jo, however living in the West Coast of Scotland, you can’t help but have an affinity with the local wildlife and otters are a truly special creature.”
We can't say anything else than that we agree with you! At Eriska the is an abundance of wildlife, such as red deer, badgers, birds and otters (!) in such tranquille surroundings - what is there not to love!
We want to thank you both for coming to see the plaque unveiled and of course for bringing Cassie along!
If you are looking to cure the 'winter' blues why not check out our 3 night rates this month, visit Wache, have some heavenly delicious food in our restaurant and a soak in the Jacuzzi in the Stables Spa.