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New crocodile house open to view

3 May 08 12:45 GMT

The first dedicated crocodile house to be built in the UK for 15 years has opened its doors to the public.

The £1.5m Crocodile Swamp at Paignton Zoo, Devon, is home to three Cuban crocodiles - the only ones in England.

One was seized by customs officials on board a ship that had sailed to Liverpool from Cuba. It was in the cabin of a Russian sailor.

The swamp also has two Nile crocodiles, a salt water crocodile and is home to four species of snake.

The Cuban is one of the world's most threatened crocodiles and is classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union.

Human attacks

They are strong swimmers and are also adept at walking and leaping.

This makes them equally at home in water or on land and they are capable of leaping out of the water to take small mammals from overhanging tree branches.

Cuban crocodiles have an average lifespan of 50 to 75 years.

Nile and salt water crocodiles are both known to attack humans in the wild.

The proximity of the Nile crocodile's natural habitat to people means attacks are not uncommon. It is estimated that up to 200 people are attacked or killed each year.

Salt water crocodiles are the largest of the species and fully grown adults can reach about 6m (20ft) in length.

Simon Tonge, the zoo's executive director, said the swamp was a daring and innovative exhibit created to inspire and excite people.

"We want Crocodile Swamp to be thrilling, engaging and imaginative," he said.

"The aim is to give visitors an amazing experience, raise conservation issues and inspire people."

The cost of creating the swamp was part-financed with a grant from the European Regional Development Fund.

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