Bless their little cotton socks: Zoo vets find lost footwear handy

2014 11 PZ monkey socks 1
(Last Updated On: November 6, 2014)

The vets at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon are using children’s socks to help keep the paws of sick monkeys warm during operations.

They use socks lost in the grounds by visitors. So unhappy children and annoyed parents can take some comfort from the fact that their wayward socks are going to a good cause.

Ghislaine Sayers, Head of Veterinary Services for Paignton Zoo, explained: “When animals are under a general anaesthetic their ability to keep themselves warm by moving or shivering is gone, so we need to keep their body temperature in a normal range. Heat is lost quickly through peripheral body parts, like hands and feet, which is why your mum always told you to put your gloves on!

2014 11 PZ monkey socks 1

Warm hands!

“When our animals are anaesthetised we wrap their legs and arms with bubble wrap, which is excellent insulation. The socks are an easy way to keep the bubble wrap on and the whole package warm.”

Paignton Zoo Vet nurse Celine Campana got the idea when she noticed a small sock left on the brick wall outside the Vet Centre one day. “I took it to Lost Property and was told that when little socks are dropped by little people they are usually not claimed, and as they are often odd socks they can’t be donated to charity.

“I asked them to start putting socks aside if they hadn’t been claimed after six weeks. I now have a little bag of socks of various sizes at the Vet Centre. My colleagues thought the pixies had been when they started finding them in the washing machine!”

Ghislaine added: “Someone, somewhere lost these socks on a visit to Paignton Zoo. That’s sad, but now they’re being used to keep a monkey warm on the operating table, so that’s a kind of a happy ending!”

The socks are washed and disinfected between animals, so they can be re-used

Celine: “We use them a lot for monkeys because their hands are similar to those of small children. We’ve used them on the paws of maned wolves and could try them on the big cats – but we’d probably need some bigger socks…

“Natural fibres are best but the animals aren’t too picky – luckily, they’re asleep! I’m not sure how they feel about wearing odd socks…”

Larger animals retain their body heat better than small animals, but the vet team monitors the temperatures of all animals under GA. Staff have items such as heated mats, hot water bottles and duvets that they can take to the bigger animals like lions.

Paignton Zoo’s in-house vet team includes three vets and two vet nurses who work in a purpose-built Vet Centre. 

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to or ring 0844 474 2222.

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