Visitors to a popular West Norfolk attraction will now have the chance to enjoy an extremely exotic experience.
Hunstanton’s Sea Life Sanctuary opened its Rainforest Ranger feature on Saturday, giving members of the public the opportunity to get up close to a range of jungle creatures.
Snakes, lizards and leafcutter ants are all included in the sanctuary’s new ‘base camp’, which is believed to be the first of its kind within the Sea Life chain.
The team of Rainforest Rangers are on hand to help visitors handle the creatures, a number of which were acquired from the RSPCA having previously been pets.
General manager Nigel Croasdale said: “There is an important message to deliver here. By engaging with our visitors, that also enables us to educate people about the pet trade.
“We want people to think very carefully about getting snakes or lizards. They are so easy to acquire within the pet trade.”
Mr Croasdale said there was also a significant conservational point to get across.
He said: “A lot of the animals in this room come from a wild environment, where there is deforestation. These places are turning more in to agricultural farm land, which doesn’t provide the animals which live there the right habitat.”
Learning is a very important part of the new feature, he said, which also includes new interactive boards.
The boards allow visitors to find out more about the creatures they are looking at – including their scientific names, where in the world they are from, what they eat and how big they grow.
While the majority of creepy crawlies – of which a praying mantis, a cockroach and giant millipedes are just a few – are kept within a glass display, part of the ant colony’s home is exposed.
Mr Croasdale said: “We have removed all the borders, so you’re not looking at an ant behind a sheet of glass.”
The display allows visitors to see the ants moving from their nest along an artificial branch to another part of their home where they pick up materials for use in their ‘fungus gardens’.
This helps the colony, which is expected to soon have a running total in three figures, to compost and cultivate fungus, which is their source of food.
To find out more, go to: www.visitsealife.com/hunstanton.