I’ve never been a fan of zoos as such, I always have pictures in my head of caged animals going demented through lack of space, although I do realise that most modern zoos aren’t like that at all. We decided on a day out at Paignton Zoo though, Little’un is such an animal fanatic that it seemed a shame not to take her there.
Well to be honest it was a little disappointing, especially for the entrance money (two adults came to about £27, inclusive of a “voluntary” donation toward the new crocodile house). There were the obligatory shagging animals (tortoises in this case, not the most comfortable coupling I’m sure, but better than porcupines I suppose) and the essential monkey with an erection (although he wasn’t playing with it, which I know monkeys in zoos are supposed to do, but this one hadn’t read the script) but other than that there wasn’t very much to see.
The big cats’ enclosures are quite impressive and must be very comfortable for the tigers/lions/cheetahs. The upshot of this though is that it’s very difficult to see them. The zoo has set feeding times for the big cats, for which the public are invited to view and meet the keeper, but we decided against it as Little’un is still quite small and the crowds were quite big. So disappointing, I desperately wanted a picture of some tiger feet 😀 .
There is a very impressive collection of hornbilled birds, which are very pretty but not very interesting to a two-year-old and very difficult to photograph – my camera is cheap and crap and kept focussing on the wires of the cage rather than the birds.
I felt desperately sorry for the lone rhino, which was pacing up and down its enclosure in a truly demented fashion. Little’un was fascinated by it though and still mentions seeing the rhino now. I think the rhino needs a friend, maybe it has one and it was temporarily absent. I really hope so.
The highlight for me was definitely the elephants. There were two of them, and they seemed settled and happy, as far as I could tell. They were standing together when we arrived at the enclosure, which has public viewing access all around it. They were clearly having a chat:
“All right Fred, your turn to take the right hand side, I’ll amble over to the left as soon as I can be arsed.”
“Right you are then Reg. I’m on me way. And don’t forget to pick stuff up with your trunk. You know they love it.”
The smaller one of the two made his way to the opposite side of the enclosure and after a few minutes the larger one wandered towards us. Little’un was entranced. She waved her arm in front of her nose in an elephant stylee for a while. ‘Twas almost as entertaining as watching the elephants 😀 .
The giraffe enclosure was empty, apparently new giraffes are being brought in sometime this month. I wonder what happened to the old ones?
The tropical zone is very good, although the single crocodile was disappointingly small (I believe it was a caiman rather than a crocodile) and asleep. I only hope that all the “voluntary” donations will build something a little more impressive.
The monkey enclosure is excellent, there are plenty of different species and they seem to be breeding successfully – there are a few young including an impossibly cute baby. They had plenty to play with and swing from and seemed to like their home. The big apes also have a great enclosure (for them) but again it’s very difficult to see them as it is heavily forested. The ape house stank to high heaven, but I can imagine that it would be very difficult to keep spotlessly clean.
I was looking forward to showing Little’un the zebras. She has a plastic one at home and was most impressed with herself when she realised that it wasn’t actually a stripy horsie but an actual different animal. We can’t get her to pronounce the “r” in zebra though, so we wanted to see the “zebbas”. Again, they had a lovely enclosure with plenty of room to roam, but they were so far away that all you could see were vaguely stripy dots grazing near the top of the slope.
Another highlight was the lemurs, that live in a huge enclosure that the public can enter via “airlock” style double sets of doors at either end. We were lucky enough to get there at feeding time so that we could see them running around fairly close at hand.
We had lunch in an undercover seated area near the monkey enclosure, where peacocks roamed free and nicked some of our (excellent) chips. Unsurprisingly, Little’un chased them round (see entry on Dawlish). The peacocks were quite charming, but will probably be dead of coronaries by the end of next year given all the crap they were eating. A passing seagull shat on the table next to us, which made quite an impression on a delighted Little’un. “Birdie poo on table! Hahahahahaha!”.
All in all we left feeling fairly disappointed. We managed to spend about 5 hours there though, so it can’t have been that bad ;). A lot of that time was spent walking around crap displays (crap for the public, although nice and homely for some of the displayees). Paignton Zoo seems to have a great record for breeding and conservation. Good for them say I. They have successfully bred many endangered species from ants to gorillas. Most of the animals have great homes that they are clearly very comfortable in. Fabulous work for a charity and supporter of wildlife, but a bit rubbish for the casual visitor.
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