A NEW species at Paignton Zoo will evoke fond memories for a generation of cartoon fans.

The name Californian earth-cuckoo may not mean much, but say roadrunner to people of a certain age and it conjures up images of cartoon capers, usually with unfortunate outcomes for a certain not-so wily coyote.

A pair of roadrunners has arrived in Devon from Arnhem Zoo. Paignton Zoo has never had the species before – and there are no roadrunners in any other UK zoos.

Paignton Zoo senior head bird keeper Peter Smallbones is impressed by his new charges. He said: “This bird hunts by chasing down its prey on foot. In the wild it has a pretty scary diet, including tarantulas, scorpions, lizards and small – often venomous – snakes. It kills prey by holding victims in its bill and hitting them on the ground.”

Their zoo diet will be a little less formidable, and includes small mice, morio worms, locusts and meat balls.

Smallbones added: “There’s a small population of roadrunners in zoos that are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. They needed other zoos to help expand and support the population. We volunteered to take a pair – we hope they will breed in due course.”

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