Betty Morris, a 100-year-old cat lover, was invited to a carefully scheduled, one-off personal meeting with serval cat Nwela at Drusillas Park – an experience that had been a longtime goal.
Betty was invited to visit the Zoo before it opened to the public on September 1, 2021, and was escorted into the serval enclosure by Keepers for a rare nose-to-nose experience. Nwela was escorted near Betty’s wheelchair by Head Keeper Gemma, who used a training stick, food, and a clicker to guide her through a practiced pattern.
With her appealing charm and unquestionable passion for animals – particularly the serval cats, whom she first became aware of at Drusillas – Betty has supported the Zoo’s serval cats for many years through adoption and has become a fond member of the Drusillas family.
“Everyone at Drusillas loves Betty, it’s impossible not to!” said Head Keeper Gemma Romanis. “When she comes to visit, we love giving her updates on her favorite large cats, and she’s spent so much time over the years getting to know each serval we’ve had.”
“It didn’t take long for the concept of a Betty encounter to come up after Nwela joined us and I was able to continue her training, and everyone was on board without hesitation.” How often do you get the chance to fulfill someone’s life goal?”
Nwela, a serval cat, was being prepared for her meeting with Betty by being gradually introduced to a wheelchair in the enclosure.
“This has long been on my bucket list!” Betty said about the event. It had been fantastic… It was such a pleasure to have Nwela come up to the side of the wheelchair. Since Drusillas acquired them, I’ve had a soft place for servals… this means a lot to me.”
A lovely serval Nwela, who arrived at Drusillas from Banham Zoo in April 2021, was hand-reared as a child and hence has a lot of human experience. Keepers at Drusillas conceived the notion of finally bringing Betty’s goal of meeting servals to fruition once Nwela settled in and it became clear how much she enjoyed her training.
“Knowing how crucial this was going to be for Betty, I wanted to make sure it went as smoothly as possible,” keeper Gemma explained.
Betty choked back tears when the Deputy Managing Director gave her a surprise honorary serval adoption and a personalized certificate following the experience.
Betty’s granddaughter Kirsty, who was with her during the serval encounter, gave her a yearly membership, which she uses whenever she can.