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Crocs arrive in time for zoo opening

PUBLISHED: 07:42 20 May 2008 | UPDATED: 12:44 20 May 2010

The miniature crocodiles were destined to become handbags, shoes and trinkets - but they are now happily swimming around Norfolk's newest zoo.

Nineteen spectacled caimans from South America are settling into their new home at the Amazona tourist attraction at Cromer as it gears up to opening next month.

The miniature crocodiles were destined to become handbags, shoes and trinkets - but they are now happily swimming around Norfolk's newest zoo.

Nineteen spectacled caimans from South America are settling into their new home at the Amazona tourist attraction at Cromer as it gears up to opening next month.

But they owe their lives to officials at Heathrow airport who halted a consignment of 250 youngsters heading to the Asian leather trade because of some irregularities, and found them homes in zoos around the country.

They are now 2ft long, and will grow up to 2m, said Jim Irwin-Davies, director of the new zoo, which is specialising in South American animals on the edge-of-town site set among woodland and lakes.

The trade was legal, and the caimans would have been turned into fancy fashion goods. But there was something wrong with the paperwork or crating - so through contacts at the airport quarantine 20 of them headed to Norfolk where they have been living at Cromer's sister zoo at Thrigby near Yarmouth.

Now the 19 survivors are among the creatures in the indoor tanks at Amazona, where other recent arrivals include squirrel monkeys, playing in the trees on their very own island.

Workmen are still building enclosures for birds, with an influx of parrots due next month, in time for an official opening at the end of June - more than a year after originally planned.

Mr Irwin-Davies said there had been problems with wet weather during construction and availability of some animals from other zoos - but Amazona now had its licence, and access roads were also being completed.

“By the time we officially open on June 28 we will have almost everything we hoped to have,” he added.

The zoo, off Hall Road, will feature more than 80 species from pumas and large rodents to piranhas, anaconda snakes and poisonous frogs.

It is expected to attract 50,000 visitors a year, and comes 25 years after the resort's previous zoo shut.

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