Attention-craving meerkat to meet Newcastle in animal invasion at Life Science Centre

By Culture24 Reporter | 01 May 2012
A photo of two meerkats in a field
Jay Gunn with a couple of his mischievous meerkats, heading for Life Science Centre this Bank Holiday weekend© Courtesy Life Science Centre
“It’s inevitable that someone will say ‘I want one of those!’,” says Jay Gunn, the man who’ll be bringing his menagerie to some human encounters at Newcastle’s Life Science Centre this weekend.

“I’ll be talking about their natural behaviour, the problems they face in the wild, where they live, what they eat and how they survive and look like they do. And I’m able to explain that the animals are most definitely not pets. But we can talk about which animals can be and why.”

Despite his keenness to prevent everyone getting overexcited, all of the animals owned by this Crocodile Dundee of Tyneside are used to being in human company.

They include a pigmy hedgehog, a giant frog and toad, a python and an “ambassador” meerkat called Maku who, apparently, “loves to be cuddled and craves attention”.

“I’ll also be bringing Hamish the long-haired guinea pig,” warns Gunn. “He’s a good example of the more traditional pet, but it’s extremely important to know something of an animal’s behaviour before making the commitment.

“Hamsters are popular, but in fact they're rather grumpy and spend all day asleep and all night awake – maybe not such a good idea after all.”

The furry visitors may occasionally be grouchy, but everyone else should be in good spirits during a weekend which includes a live theatre show demonstrating the power of flight, courtesy of popular performers Pigs Might Fly.

“Flying high isn’t the most effective method of transport,” helpfully explains the Centre’s Elin Roberts. “We’ll be demonstrating a number of methods in 20 minutes.”

Viewers can vote for the swine they think has travelled furthest, deciding an award for the “most destructive pig” of each installment.

“The science bit comes from the laws of physics,” adds Roberts. “And mathematical equations will calculate the mass, size and weight.”

As if that doesn’t sound enlightening enough, there’s a Live Skies talk and demonstration of the night sky in the Planetarium, as well as a chance to see live bats with activities overseen by the Durham Bat Group.

“Some people think that bats are big and creepy, but all British bats are small and incredibly cute,” reckons the team’s Noel Jackson.

“Frankie the Pipistrelle bat and his friends will be here to prove the point.”

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