Christmas at the Zoo can be the most wonderful time of the year. With the cold weather comes a quieter, more relaxed Zoo. But, whilst most people here are recovering from the busy summer season, I’m gearing up for my hectic time of year – because I look after adoptions and experiences.

Like one of Santa’s elves, the busiest time for me is the run up to Christmas. I’m responsible for adoptions at all three zoos and for the experiences we run at Paignton Zoo.

The fun starts around mid-November, although I have received Christmas orders from some very organised people in September before now. This is when people start to think about unusual Christmas presents, or the relative who has everything, or hold a conversation along the lines of: “What shall we get so-and-so, they are so hard to buy for…” “I bet they don’t have a gorilla!”

Like fashion, the popularity of our adopted animals changes from year to year. This year, for example, the most popular animal has been giraffe, but previously I have seen tiger and elephant take the top spot. Most of the time I can work out which animal is going to be popular by looking at TV commercials. I have a certain Aleksandr Orlov to thank for the rise in meerkat adoptions a couple of years back, and there was a huge spike in African penguin adoptions when the John Lewis Christmas advert featuring a lonely penguin was aired. Another factor is zoo babies, like our little giraffe Florrie - they can have a big impact, too.

Whilst the adoptions stream in, I also have the experiences to manage. With eight different experiences on offer, all running at different times and all requiring different paperwork, it can get very complicated. Last year for Christmas I processed around 120 experiences packs and 150 adoption packs just for Paignton Zoo! There’s no time to stop for a mince pie for me, organization, dedication and pure determination get all the orders out on time.  

OK, it’s probably nothing compared to what big Santa C is experiencing right now, but it’s a challenge. Come January, I can rest easy, knowing that I’ve saved him a few stops on Christmas Eve and lightened his load just a little.    

Amy Crompton-Holgate

Group Adoption and Experience Co-ordinator

Quotes So much to see, beautifully laid out and loads of interesting information on all the animals. Quotes