Jungle dreams come true beside the sea

The wonders of the lush Amazon jungle are set to help a north Norfolk town become the main destination in the east of England for people wishing to spot unusual South American animals.

The wonders of the lush Amazon jungle are set to help a north Norfolk town become the main destination in the east of England for people wishing to spot unusual South American animals.

A slithering giant Anaconda snake, fearsome piranhas, graceful jaguars, playful tapirs and rare giant otters will be making Cromer their home next year as plans to set up a zoo in the town gather pace.

The 15-acre South American wildlife park on the Cromer Hall Estate is the brainchild of Ken Sims, who owns Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.

On Saturday, the EDP was granted special access to the site to see how work is progressing on the zoo, which is planned to open next spring and will have about 40 species of colourful creatures on display.

Man-made islands and a lagoon have been created for flamingos and monkeys to live on, and a large building has already been constructed to house a vast array of exotic plants and creepy crawlies - including poison arrow frogs and killer insects.

Mr Sims said: “As everyday goes by on the site I am getting more and more excited watching the whole project take shape.

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“There is a common misperception that South American animals can only live in warm conditions - in fact most of them live at high altitudes, where it can be quite cold at times.

“Although I am sure all our animals here will enjoy the sunshine that Cromer is blessed with every summer.”

Mr Sims said that most of the creatures for the park were currently being kept at Thrigby Hall and once the zoo was up and running it would employ up to 15 people at peak times. It is estimated that the park will be visited by 50,000 people a year.

Cromer last had a zoo in 1983, which was owned by former tiger trainer Alex Kerry and his wife, Olga, who was the daughter of the famous Coco the Clown.

Neighbouring residents were also invited to visit the building site on Saturday to show them that any initial fears they had over noise, smells and traffic coming from the area were being listened to and addressed.

Jean Amis, who lives in a nearby cottage, said: “I think it is brilliant that a zoo is coming back to Cromer again and it will be nice to take

the grandchildren there in the holidays.”

Zoo director Jim Irwin-Davis said he hoped the facility would become involved in conservation projects and work closely with local schools.

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