It’s the time of year when we associate spooky and gruesome animals with Halloween. In the zoo we have animals with an array of facts which may give you the creeps. Our Chilean rose tarantula has two methods for deterring prey, the hairs which cover her body and her venom. The tarantula’s hairs are flicked out from her abdomen into the air, if these come into contact with skin they can cause irritation which may last a few hours or even as much as a few days. Her venom is injected into the prey through her fangs and will have differing affects depending on the size of the prey.
Snakes are often thought as being slithery, slimy animals, although they do not produce or live in slime. They do, however, have backwards facing teeth. This is to ensure that when they strike their prey their teeth are hooked into them and the prey has less chance of successfully escaping. The snake would then open its mouth, stretch it around the prey and swallow it whole.
The popular image of meerkats is that they are often cute and friendly, but in the wild they can be very tactful and malicious animals. Their diet can sometimes consist of snakes and scorpions. Meerkats have become immune to some types of venom, therefore the risk to these animals is greatly reduced. Despite this, they do still need to be wary of snakes’ teeth and scorpions’ pincers, and carefully teach their offspring about these dangers.
Birds have tongues within their mouths, similar to most animals, and our flock of flamingos are no different. However in Roman times flamingo tongue was seen as a delicacy when pickled, therefore our flamingos should be very grateful that they are alive in the present day!
The majority of people know what ghosts and spirits are, but the Latin name for them is ‘lemur’. When humans first colonised on Madagascar they heard strange calls in the middle of the night, which turned out to be coming from the lemurs. They make a variety of calls to each other, which in the dark of the night could be quite terrifying.
One of the most dangerous animals we have in the park are our hippos. These animals are extremely territorial and have killed more people in Africa than crocodiles. Despite being herbivores, they will attack any human which enters its territory. The males will also compare canine tooth size, to gain a higher dominance status, which can grow to an impressive 72cm long!