During a trip to the seaside last week when the weather was overcast we decided to visit one of the local attractions.
We visited a small zoo in Borth on the west coast of mid-Wales. Not being a huge fan of zoos I was pleasantly surprised. The zoo began as a way of giving a home to some of the many exotic pets that are discarded each year in the UK. This does not just include animals like terrapins and iguanas that can quickly outgrow their owners glass tanks. Even the zoo’s ocelot and leopard were unwanted pets.
In 2014 it was estimated that there were more than 42 million rare and unusual ‘exotic’ pets kept in the UK. That’s a lot of animals; even if that figure does include “tropical” fish.
All Creatures Great and Small…
I was initially expecting only a little more than a petting zoo. Mainly typical farm animals with the odd caged wild animal plus a few reptiles. How wrong I was. They have a wide selection of monkeys, marsupials and large birds. They even have an Iberian Lynx – supposedly native to Spain although increasingly difficult to see there in the wild. The lynx recently gave birth after being received as a gift from another zoo: Alas we never saw the kittens.
They have recently taken on two lions (one male one female) from the Noah’s Ark zoo farm near Bristol. Apparently these lions were surplus to requirements in that zoo farm such has been their success and growth. The enclosure is spacious and the animals come right up to the fence. It is the closest I have been to a lion in any kind of zoo.
They do also have all the typical petting zoo creatures like small rodents, lambs and ponies.
Snakes on a Boy….
Not to be confused with that dreadful film Snakes on a Plane; this was the reptile encounter. A fantastic, educational, close encounter with some of the zoo’s more exotic species.
The reptile keeper brings out some of the snake collection so you can see them at close quarters and even hold them. The first snakes he brought out were a relatively small Corn Snake (that he had wrapped around his neck) and a Royal Python called Luna. He passed the python around the audience where the kids got to hold it.
A mere six foot (2 metres) or so and not weighing too much Dani comfortably held it on his lap – half excited half scared I suspect. But he never flinched or showed any signs of fear. What a charmer! Snake charmer no less. He held it and stroked its smooth and silky skin. It is a common misconception that snakes are wet and slimey.
Then they brought out the second python. I say “they” because it took 4 of them to carry it. This thing was a female Burmese python called Bernie. She is over 20 feet long (over 6m) and weighs over 12 stone (that’s over 168 pounds or more than 68kg in new money)
First they had to uncoil it and then lift it before carefully walking out of the glassed housing area into the public seating zone. Finally placing it carefully on a table for the kids to maul it. In reality the kids were very well behaved and treated the animals with respect. The girth of this animal was incredible. Dani could easily fit inside it without any stretching or bulges showing.
As big and powerful as these pythons are they are gentle in nature and do not bite. The one disappointment was that none of the pythons we met was named Monty.
Apart from the advertised feeding events and reptile encounters there are other attractions that you cannot find in most zoos. Peacocks roam freely and clearly enjoy displaying their famous feathers. Visitors are free to enter the wallaby pen. For an extra fee you can even enter the popular meerkat enclosure. The interaction with the animals is fantastic and a great place for kids to learn or stimulate a thirst for more knowledge. Borth is only a few miles north of the university town of Aberystwyth. If you are in that part of the world I can highly recommend it. Check out their website (which is currently being updated/rebuilt) at http://animalarium.co.uk/
Aside……A couple of film references
If you are a frequent reader of the Blog you will know that I occasionally like to make references to the movies. Here are another two…
Snakes On a plane – Extremely shit (2006) film starring Samuel L. Jackson. The “L” stands for Leroy by the way. Although I will admit there was at least one very funny moment just about when the snakes were starting to appear when a man is taking a leak in the toilet. Real snake meets trouser snake (so to speak). It had me in fits of laughter. While I consider Sam Jackson to be a decent (rather than great) actor he did play one of the great cinema roles starring as Jules Winnfield in one of my all-time top 10 films Pulp Fiction.
A Clockwork Orange: This 1970s cult classic, taken from the book of the same name, was banned for many years in the UK. Reportedly because too many youth gangs were copying the behaviour of the film’s anti-heroes. The main character is Alex played by Malcom McDowell. In the movie, Alex has a pet python he calls Monty.