Eric, Kyle, Smiler, Rose, Ember and Trouble – no, they’re not Santa’s reserve reindeer team, or challenging for the top of the festive charts. They’re Paignton Zoo’s crack team of knitted elves.

The cheery sextet are part of the charity Zoo’s Christmas event, and will be hidden around the Zoo’s miniature train track. The elves, each 2 feet (or 60 cms) tall, were knitted by Zoo volunteers Alison Batten, Di Stych, Vera Brockwell, Nikki Stewart, Jane Grasse, and Sue Thacker. Each volunteer knitted an elf body, one of the outfits, or both. Each figure took about ten hours to complete.

Volunteers donate thousands of hours a year to the charity zoo and to its sister sites, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. In the summer, many volunteers help guests and raise funds; other tasks include chopping vegetables for gorillas, assisting in the library and gardening.

Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts Volunteers’ Co-ordinator Frankie Lawrence-Thompson said: “Volunteers have been busy preparing for Christmas, making up bags of reindeer food and knitting the elves to go round the train track. It’s great to find them other things to do during our quieter periods.”

Paignton Zoo’s Christmas event (kindly supported by Union Square Shopping Centre) runs from 16th to 24th December, and features a festive train ride, the hidden elves, a Santa meet and greet, a present, (artificial) snowball throwing, festive food and drink, chocolate coins and magic reindeer dust. Booking is essential – go to for more information.

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