Yesterday, the kids and I had the most amazing afternoon out at Crocodiles of the World, in Oxfordshire. This Crocodile Conservation and Education Centre is the UK's only Crocodile Zoo, and states as it's mission "To inspire in our visitors a respect and understanding for the crocodile. The aim is to stimulate public awareness about crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials, and open people's eyes to the incredible nature of crocodiles, and spark curiosity and awareness for the future."
They are definitely achieving what they set out to do, the place is amazing! I only heard about its existence from a friend recently; I believe they opened on this site early 2014, and a lot of care and thought has clearly gone into the planning and building of the zoo, both for the benefit of the animals who live there, and the visitors.
Crocodiles of the World is home to 14 species of the crocodile family, with over 100 of these animals on site. The animals are housed in habitats with glass sides, which allows the visitors to view the animals underwater, as well as on the surface. Neither the kids, nor myself, have seen crocodiles before close up (not surprisingly), they are truly majestic. There is clearly a huge focus on conservation underpinning the zoo, many of the species exhibited are critically endangered, threatened in the wild by loss of habitat, hunting, the exotic pet trade and persecution, and Crocodiles of the World are part of an international co-operative breeding programme for some of these species.
Throughout the day, talks and feeding of the animals takes place at regular intervals. The photo in the middle, below, shows Hugo who is an adult male Siamese Crocodile (which are critically endangered, possibly with less than 1000 mature individuals living wild). He was difficult to photograph, as he moves incredibly quickly when catching his food, but you get the idea from this one of how impressive he is. He lives with his mate Rebecca, and the adorable babies that the kids are holding are their year old offspring. (taken from the hatching room, not their enclosure!)
As well as the crocodiles and related species, the zoo is also home to a number of other reptiles such as monitor lizards, snakes and turtles,and a selection of Birds, Otters and Meerkats.
The keepers on site all clearly love their jobs. All the talks and demonstrations were fascinating, and they were all really happy to chat about the animals they care for. We saw Crocodiles, Monitor Lizards, Indian Long-Eared Owls and Otters fed when we visited, as well as getting to hold the baby crocodiles.
We loved the whole feel of the place, particularly the signs...
We had a brilliant afternoon out, the kids were so enthused by the experience, and as you can see from the photos the animals are amazing. The Zoo runs a number of keeper experiences and shorter hands on sessions, and both kids are talking about doing that when we next visit. My son fancies a 'walking with monitor lizards' session, and my daughter, of course, wants to do one of the ones that involves the Meerkats.