Happy holidays with the animals

Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
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Gail Simons and her friends

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The perfect getaway for Stoney Oaks Wildlife Park owner Gail Simons is her own backyard.

Mrs Simons, of Inglewood, cannot imagine anywhere else she would rather be than spending time with the 300-odd animals dotting the sanctuary.

When she and her husband Trevor attempted a two-week holiday to the South Island five years ago, the pair "got crook" instead.

"We've been leading busy lives and when you relax, the bugs kick in," she said. "It never happens when we're at home."

So, home is where the Simonses will be taking their summer vacation. "It's the place to be," Mrs Simons said. "It's our little part of paradise."

"A lot of the animals are hand-reared so they're very friendly," she said. "It's like a hobby of mine which got out of control, animal wise, we're overstocked half the time."

During the holiday season the sight of a campervan pulling into their property does make her feel like going on a little retreat.

"You go ‘oh I just want to jump into the campervan and go. Get away and have peace and quiet, and do nothing'," she said. "But I can't imagine living anywhere else."

However, going out of town requires more than just reminding your neighbours to put food and water out for your dog or cat.

"You need like 10 of those A4s with bits of paper and lists of what to feed and what not to do," Mrs Simons said.

A variety of animals such as ostriches, emus, llamas and damara sheep on land mean there are different needs to be met.

"If one of them gets sick and people don't click on that they are not doing something they normally would be doing, they would be dead within two days," Mrs Simons said.

"It's a worry. You go away and wonder if everyone is still here because they're like family."

However, when the Simonses do go away, they find themselves calling in on wildlife parks or zoos around the country.

"You're meant to be getting away but you find those places," she said. "Trevor is keen on deer so he loves anything to do with deer. For me, it's highland calves."

Despite the constant demands of keeping the sanctuary shipshape, Mrs Simons would not trade her job for anything in the world.

"The thing about this job is that you get to see people happy all the time," she said.

When she needs downtime, Mrs Simons gives her cows a comb-up. "They love it," she said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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