Some parents worry that their children will spend the summer holidays indoors playing fantasy computer games. To get them running about in the fresh air, three charity zoos are offering a top ten of amazing fairy tale characters that are very, very real.
Dragon: There’s a real-life dragon at Paignton Zoo – a Komodo dragon. This is the largest lizard on the planet. An adult can eat up to half its body weight in one meal! Find her in Crocodile Swamp.
Giant: The giant tortoises at Paignton Zoo – Sophie, Miley, Dora, Cleo, Timmy and Elvis – came to Paignton Zoo as youngsters after arriving in the UK in an illegal consignment seized by customs officials. They now weigh up to 200 kilos – about the same as an adult male gorilla!
Unicorn: OK, so the black rhinos at Paignton Zoo are Diceros bicornis, and it’s the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) that has the single horn… But rhinos are always worth seeing, right?
Titan: In Greek mythology, the Titans were huge and powerful divine beings. Our Titan is also huge and powerful – when this enormous tropical plant is in flower, you can smell it a mile off! Find a Titan arum in Crocodile Swamp – though at the moment it’s in its mottled green tree phase rather than its big stinky flower phase.
Princess: As rare, as shy and as beautiful as any fairy-tale princess, the Princess of Wales parakeet is a delicate little bird that can be seen in the Desert House at Paignton Zoo.
Witch: The crested quail dove is also known as the mountain witch. They might just cast a spell over you… Look for them in Reptile Tropics at Paignton Zoo.
King: The king eider is a sea duck of the Arctic – the female plucks downy feathers from her breast and uses them as nesting material. These royal birds can be found at Living Coasts.
Dwarf: There are all sorts of dwarf species in the world, from geckos to caimans. Paignton Zoo is home to turquoise dwarf geckos.
Orc: Well, nearly – there are auks at Living Coasts. Auks are seabirds – including guillemots and puffins – and are notable for the way they fly underwater.
Emperor: There are emperors all over the place – we have emperor goose and emperor scorpion at Paignton Zoo, emperor tamarin and emperor newt at Newquay Zoo.
Trust spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “Zoos are full of amazing, surprising and inspiring plants and animals. This list is a bit of fun – and a refreshing change to computer games and the online world!” The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is the charity that runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.
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