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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Tuesday 23rd September, 2014

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End Of An Era

Georgie, our famous ‘Millennium Stamp’ veteran Barn Owl who was the star of the World Owl Trust’s ‘Meet the Birds’ flying display at historic Muncaster Castle for the past 13 years, is dead.

Georgie came to the World Owl Centre in 1990 as a six week old baby from Knoxwood Wildlife Rescue, run by George Scott and his family at Aikton. He was the pet of George’s young daughter Emma and it came as something of a shock to us when the owlet was wheeled into the Knoxwood living room in a doll’s pram! At first we thought it was a conventional doll, then it blinked at us!

I remember the moment well, for this was the beginning of a remarkable friendship between us. A friendship which was consummated on a regular basis, for it was Georgie’s habit to mate with my head whenever I entered his enclosure! Behaviour which sometimes necessitated a delicate explanation when the audience comprised young schoolchildren visiting the Centre! However, I regarded it as a great honour to be the object of desire for such a beautiful creature! Mind you, as I grew older and my hair started to thin, I did begin to wince a bit, his talons were very sharp.

In 2000 Georgie’s beauty and character resulted in his face adorning the first postage stamp of the Millennium, a stamp eventually voted ‘Best Stamp of the Millennium’ by Britain’s philatelists. Last year he travelled down to London to meet TV personaility Sue Lawley when she presented the owners of Muncaster Castle with the national award for ‘Best Visitor Attraction of the Year’ (up to 100,000 visitors) at the tourism ‘Oscars’. Although he shared the stage with Sue and Harry Potter film ‘baddies’ Crabb, Goyle and Malfoy, it was generally agreed by everyone attending the ceremony that Georgie stole the show. This did not surprise me, he always was a ham - just like me! In September, 2001 Georgie even met Royalty when the Princess Royal called in at Muncaster during her visit to Cumbria. It might be my imagination, but I am sure his personality took on a bit of an edge after that.

Fittingly for a star who has been such a good ambassador for his endangered kind for so many years, Georgie died from a stroke while appearing at a conservation day at Old Hutton School near Kendal, with WOT Project Officer Jenny Holden.

For me, this was a day I have been dreading. At almost 14 Georgie was an old boy, and ironically in his year of fame in 2000 we discovered his eyesight was failing, though in every other way he was fighting fit. We were forced to retire him from our daily demonstration at Muncaster as we couldn’t risk him flying off without his glasses (!). He hated this, and we hated leaving him out, for he loved showing off to his audience so much. However, Jenny’s lectures had given him a new lease of life and a renewed chance to spread the gospel of habitat conservation. Everyone at Muncaster, even those not directly involved with the owls, is in deep mourning. It might sound ‘over the top’ but Georgie really was a very special bird and everyone loved him, especially me. It’s as if someone has turned out a bright light, and things will never be quite the same without him. One thing is for certain, he’ll never be forgotten.

Tony Warburton

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The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.
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