Two local girls have had a close encounter with a gorilla named Herbert.

Torbay Carnival Ladies-in-Waiting Natalie Sedgeman and Meesha Ghovanloupoor met the life-size sculpture at Paignton Zoo.

Herbert, who is 140cms (nearly 5 feet) tall, is the special guest at the Zoo’s traditional charity fundraiser, the Mistletoe Ball, which takes place at the Grand Hotel on December 1st. He was painted by Paignton Zoo artist Sue Misselbrook.

The Mistletoe Ball is Paignton Zoo’s traditional Christmas black tie charity dinner and dance. Guests will enjoy a champagne reception, four-course dinner, charity auction and dancing to live music.

Organiser Jenny Paton said: “We have some amazing auction lots this year. There’s the chance to live like a film star for a week on board a luxury 58-foot sloop sailing in the Mediterranean, donated by Peter Coxon of Sail Team Excellence. And there’s the use of a new BMW 1 Series worth £23,000 from Ocean Torbay for a weekend. We’ve also got Exeter Chiefs tickets, framed gorilla prints and a day at the races and a meal courtesy of Newton Abbot Races. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us – it has been fantastic!” 

Paignton Zoo is marking its 90th birthday with The Great Gorillas Project, which will see life-size gorilla sculptures sponsored by businesses and community groups, painted in original designs by local artists and displayed in public, creating a unique art trail around Torbay and Exeter.

Paignton Zoo Director of Marketing & Development Pippa Craddock said: “The project is an amazing mix of art, education, conservation and public engagement. The funds raised will be used by Paignton Zoo to support gorilla and conservation projects and a local community project.”

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to 

Quotes An awesome experience. The amount of free space given to the animals was very impressive Quotes