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I was feeling a bit chilly over the colder months and decided to pop in to UK`s most popular garden tourist attraction and largest collection of stunning tropical flora and fauna – Tropical World in Leeds, UK.

Tropical World is home to exciting and exotic mammals, birds, reptiles, butterflies and more species, all in one place of unforgettable rainforest, mangroves and desert.

Although it was not my first visit to this place, I was very exited to return and to see the exotic indoor wildlife park.

Tropical World is just one of 100 zoo and aquariums and is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).

The park is divided thematically so you can explore different zones, such as the Waterfall House, Aquarium, Desert House, South America House, Creature Corner, Creature Cavern and Butterfly House. There is also a variety of animals from across the animal world. There are meerkats, crocodile, birds, butterflies and more.

Each of the zones makes a great impression, from the crawling life of the rainforest floor to the funny meerkats who are great at posing for photos and regularly rotate their heads.

1. Tortoise 2. Meerkat 3. Giant Cockroach from South America 4. Sailfin Tang blue fish 5. Orange - headed trush 6. Tropical corals

Creature corner is where the snakes, lizards, frogs and Emerald Tree Monitor are located. The Emerald Tree Monitor has a prehensile tail, meaning it can use its tail to hold on to branches to assist it while climbing.

Walking from one part of the park to the next, I came across a display on the wall showing the adaptation and survival of animals over the millennia to their habitats, and as well the threats that are effecting their population in the wild - from fish, reptiles, mammals, birds and plants. This entire display is called SURVIVAL, which is shown as a cycle of defend, compete, adapt, feed and breed to SURVIVE.

Next to this circle display is another display which make me think:

''All living things have SURVIVED million of years to exist on our planet. But will they ultimately SURVIVE the biggest risk of all- us?''

The Butterfly House is really impressive with stunning butterflies, although this time the butterflies were not very active during my visit and it was difficult to see them.

There was an exhibition of butterfly cocoons that will turn into beautiful butterflies at any moment. Among the butterflies that are in the park's collection are:

  • Flame (Origin: Costa Rica, size 10 cm)

  • Checked Swallowtail (Origin: Philippines, size 8 -10 cm),

  • Tabby peacock (Origin: Costa Rica, size 5 cm)

There also is a collection of Owl Butterflies that can grow up to 20cm, the size of a large dinner plate.

Apart from the pupae of butterflies, I did not manage to spot a single butterfly during my visit. The reason may be that in low light during the winter time their flight activity is greatly reduced.

Pupae life stage in the development of butterflies - photo January 2023
Pupae life stage in the development of butterflies - photo January 2023

Pupae and transformation from a cocoon to a butterfly - Photo from my first visit to Tropical World in 2010
Pupae and transformation from a cocoon to a butterfly - Photo from my first visit to Tropical World in 2010

I remember seeing the tropical wonder Blue Morpho butterfly, with its lively and spectacular wings on my first visit to the zoo.

I managed to take a very close photo when the Blue Morpho flew in for a moment and sat on a leaf. I have posted a photo of this butterfly on one of my blog posts in the past.

An interesting fact about the Blue Morpho is that it is one of the largest butterflies in the world with a wingspan of five to eight inches. These butterflies live in the Amazon rainforest, and its beauty goes beyond what can be seen at first glance.

The birds in Tropical World are also wonderful. Some of them, such as Palawan peacock - pheasant, can surprise you with the ease in which they move from one part of the zone to another. Sometimes they pass right by us as if we were not there.

Palawan peacock- pheasant is an extremely beautiful ground bird with long, metallic blue feathers, a fairly long tail and crest. It is native to the rainforest island of Palawan in the Philippines archipelago.

Palawan peacock - pheasant trying jump on the visitors pathway
Palawan peacock - pheasant trying jump on the visitors pathway

Another beautiful bird I saw was Ibis, which is a medium to large size, terrestrial bird that inhabits wetlands, forests and plains. It uses freshwater marshes, coastal estuaries, mangroves, flooded pastures, and swamps. Ibis is a relative of spoonbills and herons. I was very impressed by the contrasting black and white feathers of this beautiful bird.

Ibis proudly observing around
Ibis proudly observing around

The flowers and other plants in the park are also wonderful, giving you the feeling that you are really in the tropics and somewhere far away.

I noticed a Flaming Glorybowerflower (Glory Tree) in the Butterfly House. This is a tropical climber and native to tropical Western Africa. It grows up to 3 meters or more and has heart-shaped leaves and panicles of brilliant scarlet flowers in the summer. I am in awe of the strong red colour of those flowers.

1. Devil`s Ivy (climber) 2. Bird of Paradise (Sterlizia Reginae) 3. Alocasia Odora 3. Brugmansia Arborea

Alocasia Odora, native to East and Southeast Asia is a rhizomatous evergreen perennial and an absolutely breath-taking beauty. I like its huge, glossy mid- green leaves. The leaf blades have pale green veins and reach 1,2 m long.

Brugmansia arborea, the angel`s trumpet (shown on the last of my photographs) was classed by The IUCN as Extinct in the wild. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree 4 m in hight or more with large leaves and pendulous and very fragrant flowers. The native range of this species is ranges from Ecuador to North Chile. It grows primarily in the montane tropical biome.

It is often questioned whether we need places like the Tropical World at all. It's a very simple and straightforward answer to that question. Much of our diet comes from or is grown there - including things like bananas, pineapples, avocados and so much more. Some sources claim that there are 3,000 fruits in the rainforest, of which only 200 are used in the Western world. For example, my favourite chocolate comes from the pods of cocoa trees that grow in the rainforests of South and Central America. If there were no rainforests, we wouldn't have chocolate.

The final, important reason we should care about places like Tropical World is that they teach us that even if most of us have not visited the rainforests, they are an important first lung of planet Earth, absorbing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. They also increase the humidity of the air, are home and shelter to a large number of animals and plants and cause rainfall all over the planet.

We still know too little about the world's flora and fauna. Places like Tropical World are very important not only because they conduct a conservation effort, but also because they educate us about the environment and we can all learn about and see animals and plants, and observe their behaviour and habitats with our own eyes.

And one more reason to come to Tropical World, it is surrounded by amazing gardens and neighbouring Roundhay Park.... but more on that next time.


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