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Young Mia gets some hands-on zoo experience

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

Six-year-old Mia Pestridge carefully handles one of the baby snakes during a Junior Keeper Day working with staff at Woodlands Family Theme Park

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Mia Pestridge's remarkable ability to work with animals shone during a recent trip to a zoo farm at a Devon theme park.

The six-year-old from Exminster enjoyed a Junior Keeper Day working with staff at Woodlands Family Theme Park, Dartmouth which has around 500 animals.

Mia, who has hearing difficulties, communicated with head keeper Elliott Hamilton using a special microphone her mother Vanessa brought along.

Elliott wore the device around his neck which sent his instructions directly to Mia's hearing aid.

The youngster helped feed coatis, meerkats and raccoons, picked fresh food for iguanas and tortoises, cleaned out big guinea pigs and fed all the rabbits.

She even helped to conduct the handling session for other children, delicately placing animals in their arms.

And as a very special treat Elliott took Mia to meet some baby snakes.

Twenty-two have recently hatched and four in the incubator are due to hatch soon.

Fifteen of the babies are boa constrictors born to parents Iris and Clifford.

The other seven and four unhatched are royal pythons – two sets born to a different mother.

When the reptiles are a little older they will be transported to their new homes. Some will go to Woodlands' sister parks, Twinlakes and Wheelgate, and others will be sent on to zoos around the UK or kept for handling at Woodlands.

Royal pythons are from Central Africa, they have on average three to six eggs with an incubation period of about eight weeks. They have a life-span of about 20-30 years.

Boa constrictors can bear up to 60 young and unlike other snakes they retain the eggs and have a live birth – they live on average from 25 to 30 years.

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