We are sitting inside a tiny wooden hut with heavy rain pelting off the roof. Around us tiny feet are scurrying, and a friendly zookeeper is telling us all about our animal hosts. In my hand mealworms are wriggling, and writhing, and a tiny little curious face has come over to investigate….
“You may have spotted the Exotic Zoo van in your town, you may have possibly been at one of our Animal Man parties, or we may have visited your school – We’ve been popping up all over the place! Perhaps you spied Scott on TV whilst appearing on shows like Blue Peter, The Sam and Mark show and The Alan Titchmarsh Show. The exciting news is we have just built a brand new zoo in Telford! In the summer of 2017 we opened our doors to the public for the first time. We want to mix our passion for educating people with an immersive experience to engage and excite people about our amazing planet and the animals that call it their home.” [source]
Our adventure today was in the wonderful world of Exotic Zoo. While small, Exotic Zoo is mighty. With deep roots in education (you might have spotted Animal Man on tv!), and animal therapy this little zoo is helping to bridge the gap between animals and people in a really positive way.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a hands-on experience with some of the most charming residents of the zoo… Stuart surprised me with a Meerkat Experience!!! Not only did we get to feed and handle adult Meerkats, but we were extremely lucky to handle tiny Meerkat pups. The bond between mumma Meerkat and her keeper was strong enough that she was totally at ease with strangers being around her babies, and feeding them mealworms! We were also quite lucky that our slot was a bit later in the day, so we were the only two people in the experience, and that little bit of privacy made our time extra special. I could not recommend booking an experience with Exotic Zoo highly enough, everything about it was perfect. From the knowledge of the keeper, to the cleanliness of the little hut setting, and the gentleness with which the keeper handled the animals was everything you want an animal experience to be… not to mention the adorableness of the Meerkats themselves. A truly wonderful adventure.
Book your experience here.
Before our experience started, we had a chance to explore the zoo. A notable mention goes to the freshness of the enclosures. Everything was well-maintained, beautifully built, and clean; providing attractive homes for visitors to view the animals in, but more importantly providing lots of enrichment and stimulation for the residents.
Exotic Zoo is home to over 60 species of animals, with highlights including: Meerkats (obviously!), Fennec Foxes, Marmosets, Owls, Axolotls, Snakes, and many more fascinating creatures. For me, seeing the Red and Silver Foxes was a real treat as they bounded about after each other, before curling up into little balls of sleepy fur. I also enjoyed the chance to stroke a misunderstood bundle of black and white fluff, as a keeper talked all about the world of skunks.
Even if you do not book an experience, Exotic Zoo has plenty of chances for you to get up close with the animal residents. There are reptile ambassadors helping to conquer fears, a free-roaming pig who is only too happy to stop for a tickle behind the ears, farm animals that are delighted to be hand-fed, and various introduction to animals talks throughout the day.
Despite the on and off rain, we had a fantastic day at Exotic Zoo!
Did you know? Adult meerkats are immune to scorpion poison, which is lucky as they form a large portion of their diet. Even without poison as a weapon, a scorpion can still do damage with it’s sharp pincers, so it takes skill for a meerkat to enjoy such a meal. Young pups are not quite ready to take on such a tough meal, so, adult meerkats actively teach the pups how to hunt. It starts off with very young pups being brought dead prey to familiarise them with their food. The lesson will then move on to live prey, but slightly altered live prey, as the adult meerkats immobilise it in some way; perhaps biting the stinger off a scorpion, or injuring a quick moving lizard. These helpful lessons allows the young meerkats to gently learn how to tackle even the toughest of prey, and therefore make them extremely successful hunters in the future. Stay in school kids!
Exotic Zoo at a glance…
7 days a week 11AM – 4PM
Address: Lakeside Plant Centre, Priorslee, Telford TF2 9TT OR use Google Maps here.