Islington shoppers have wild old time comparing meerkat to ferret

PUBLISHED: 12:03 08 April 2012

Zoo keeper Jim Cannon and Aleksander the meerkat Pic: Dieter Perry

Zoo keeper Jim Cannon and Aleksander the meerkat Pic: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Animal lovers aged nine to 90 went out in the Easter sun to make friends with a host of exotic animals on Monday.

Exotic animal facts

- the oldest giant turtle was said to be a gift from Christopher Columbus to Calcutta zoo – it lived to an ancient 255 years.

- Meerkats are impervious to most types of poison and regularly eat venomous scorpions. Scientists still aren’t sure why.

- the common house spider is one of the most poisonous in the world – more so than the tarantula – but their fangs cannot penetrate our skin.

- Raccoon dogs are the only canine to hibernate in winter – which they do conserve energy during freezing Siberian blizzards.

Aleksander the slender-tailed meerkat, Scary Mary the tarantula, Lucy the racoon dog and Flower the skunk all took centre stage as children and adults flocked to pet the curious critters.

Darwin the giant tortoise, Nipper the ferret and Bluey the blue-tongued skink were also popular with the large crowd at event in the N1 Centre, Parkfield Street, Islington, which ran until Wednesday.

Aleksander seemed to bask in the attention of the children – he was hand reared from a baby and is very used to human contact.

A pair of wallabies were also scheduled to appear, but after a marsupial melee the previous day they didn’t feel able to attend.

But there were still plenty of assorted animals on hand to amuse the crowd

Rhea Fry, eight, said: “I liked the meerkats best of all – they were really cute.”

Fredrick Lynch, a 90-year-old Gazette reader, said: “I love all the animals. I wasn’t too keen on the tarantula though.”

Dylan Ago, six, said: “They are all great – I like the big turtle best. I would like to be a zookeeper when I grow up.”

The event built on the success of last year’s zoo, in which wildlife from Holloway’s own Freightliners Farm came to the shopping centre.

This year’s event was a more exotic call of the wild, and the creatures were brought to Islington by Zoofari, a company who rescue abandoned animals and bring them to events such as this – ploughing any profits into conservation projects in Belize.

Experts from the company were on hand to let people know more about the habits and biology of these unusual animals.

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