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Famous faces: Celebrity visits to Paignton Zoo over the years

Throughout our 100-year history, Paignton Zoo has welcomed many high profile visitors through our gates. From best-selling authors to sports personalities, we’ve put together a list of the most notable celebs who have visited over the years.

Sir David Attenborough

The renowned broadcaster, biologist and natural historian has visited Paignton Zoo on numerous occasions over the years, often to film on site for the documentaries he’s featured in.

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Sir David Attenborough filming on location at Paignton Zoo for the 2015 BBC documentary series ‘Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities‘.

Floella Benjamin

The children’s TV presenter visited Paignton Zoo in the mid-1990s to advocate for the charity ‘NCH Action For Children‘.

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Many children of the 80s and 90s will remember Floella Benjamin from CBBC’s ‘Play School‘.

David Bellamy

The TV personality and environmentalist opened our new Education Centre back in 1996.

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David Bellamy poses at The Ranch with staff members and school children.

Agatha Christie

The Torquay-born novelist visited us all the way back in 1948, when the zoo celebrated its silver jubilee.

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Agatha Christie poses with two llamas to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Paignton Zoo.

John Cleese

The legendary comedian opened our brand new entrance back in 1996, before humouring the press by posing with one of our parrots.

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John Cleese speaking with the late Philip Michelmore in the newly opened zoo entrance.

Eddie the Eagle

At the height of his fame in 1988, Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie the Eagle, flew in via helicopter to help promote the release of ‘Chimps, Champs and Elephants‘, a book documenting the history of Herbert Whitley and Paignton Zoo.

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The Olympian’s appearance somewhat overshadowed the book launch as visitors (and staff) rushed to get his autograph.

Mark Evans

The TV vet paid Paignton Zoo a visit in the late 1990s to present various staff members with a number of awards from the Universities Federation For Animal Welfare (ufaw).

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The late Brian Baxter, a long-serving zoo keeper who worked primarily with primates, accepting the award on behalf of the Marie Le Fevre Ape Centre.

Johnny Morris

The popular children’s TV presenter of ‘Animal Magic‘ fame made several appearance at the zoo over the years, most notably in 1984 when he opened The Ark, an interactive display that encouraged people to find out more about the animal and plant world.

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Johnny Morris was already a familiar face at Paignton Zoo before opening The Ark.

Chris Packham

The BBC wildlife presenter made an appearance in the 1999 to visit the newly opened Desert House (now called Arid Lands).

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Before ‘Springwatch’, Chris Packham co-hosted the popular CBBC series ‘The Really Wild Show‘ with Michaela Strachan, who also features on this list.

Carole Smillie

The host of TV’s ‘Changing Rooms‘ visited the zoo in the late 1990s when one of our staff residences was featured in an episode of the famous DIY show.

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Carole Smillie poses with zoo keeper Bryan Raynes, who still lives in the home that was redecorated in the ancient Egyptian theme chosen.

Michaela Strachan

The wildlife TV presenter visited Paignton Zoo in the summer of 2000 to meet Devika, our hand-reared Asiatic lion cub for the TV series ‘The Really Wild Show’.

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Michaela Strachan filmed Devika, who had to be hand-reared by keepers after she was rejected by her mother.

We’re celebrating our centenary year. To discover more about Paignton Zoo’s 100 year history and our plans for the year, click here.

GloWild at Paignton Zoo

17th November 2023 – 2nd January 2024

We will be ending our centenary year in style with our biggest ever festive event!

Join us after dark for an immersive light experience featuring a variety of beautiful, interactive light installations, entertainers and a silent disco.