The Exeter Chiefs visited Paignton Zoo recently and came up against some real heavyweights.

Players and staff encountered elephants, giraffes and giant tortoises – and even scrummed down with a gorilla!

Female African elephant Duchess impressed many. Mark Twiggs, Head of Strength & Conditioning, said: “Duchess weighs around 4,000 kilos, which equates to nearly the whole squad!”

“It’s interesting to compare stats,” said Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling. “Exeter’s young Academy lock Will Carrick-Smith is 6 feet 11 inches – 2.1 metres. He’s one of the tallest players in any Premiership squad. He probably gets lifted to something like 14 feet in the line-out – and a Rothschild’s giraffe, at 16 to 20 feet – 5 or 6 metres – is still taller!”

Some players met the Zoo’s Aldabra giant tortoises. Males can weigh over 200 kilos - 31 stones. The Chiefs’ heaviest player is Chris Budgen, weighing in at around 124 kilos, or under 20 stones.

And some of the squad packed down with one of Paignton Zoo’s Great Gorilla sculptures. To mark the Zoo’s 90th birthday, life-size model gorillas are being sponsored by businesses and community groups, painted in original designs by specially-commissioned artists and displayed in public, creating a unique art trail around Torbay and Exeter.

The full-size models, made of steel reinforced fibre-glass, are 120cms long, 140cms high and 60cms wide and weigh around 30 kilos. A real live adult male Western lowland gorilla can weigh 200 kilos – that’s 31 stone or over 400 pounds.

Paignton Zoo sponsors three Chiefs players - Junior Poluleuligaga, Gonzalo Camacho and Jack Arnott. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to or ring 01803 697500.

Quotes It's got to be said, Paignton Zoo is hard to beat! Quotes