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Paignton Zoo is looking for a new gorilla - of the cuddly variety. Our old one has been loved and cuddled so much that now even our resident stuffed animal vet cannot mend her.

The large plush toy gorilla in the entrance hall named Koko has been our unofficial mascot for years, greeting visitors with her relaxed manner and inviting ‘sit-by-me’ smile. Children and adults alike adore her and over the years, thousands of photos have been taken with her.

But all is not well for Koko, love sadly comes at a price. Koko, who is a life-size reproduction of a famous gorilla named Koko in the US, has had regular trips to the toy emergency room to have lifesaving ‘soft toy surgery’, performed by Sue Whitehurst, Guest Services Assistant and local seamstress. Sue has tried to keep Koko in peak condition, but even after all her very best efforts, Koko is sadly beyond repair.

Sue said: “I’ve frequently had to sew her back together – it’s her arms and nose, mostly. Children have hugged her so hard that her arms have burst out of their seams…  I’ve even had to sew her head back on a couple times. It’s amazing how much she’s been loved - people are always taking photos and commenting on her.”

Paul Gallagher, Guest Experience Manager for the Zoo said: “Children have gone ape over Koko and she has earnt the love of thousands, but it’s not just children, I’ve been asked to take many photos of entire families with Koko and even seen people take selfies saying she’s their twin! I haven’t seen a day yet where a photo hasn’t been taken with Koko.”

As the real gorillas are not allowed to come down to the main entrance to meet and greet visitors, the search is now on for another soft toy to replace her. If anyone has a really large cuddly gorilla they don’t have room for, we would be happy to take him or her off your hands. Call us on 01803 697500.

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