Search is on for Exmouth Zoo crocodile thought to be living abroad

PUBLISHED: 15:30 07 January 2019

Nile crocodile. Picture: Getty Images

Nile crocodile. Picture: Getty Images


If you have been on holiday to Tenerife recently you may have seen Donald/Donna.

The hunt is on to find a crocodile named Donald almost 40 years after he left an East Devon Zoo.

Donald was part of a large menagerie of animals owned by Julia Gillick’s family and kept in their Devon home in the 1960s.

Julia, from Brighton, wants to track down Donald to cheer up her mother’s cousin, Donald’s original owner, after her husband Ralph passed away last year.

She met with her mum’s cousin, Julia Hopper, recently and while looking over old pictures a plan was hatched to track down the mysterious crocodile.

The curious case of Donald the crocodile starts when he was handed over to Exmouth Zoo at some point during the 1960s.

“She said they got sent him off to the zoo as a youngster because new legislation came in that meant their monkey needed a larger enclosure,” said Julia.

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What happened to Donald directly after the zoo was closed in 1980 is not clear but Julia believes he turned up again at Brighton Aquarium, now Brighton Sea Life Centre, some months later.

There is a good chance Donald is still alive as crocodiles can live for up to 90 to 100 years old.

An historian at Brighton Sea Life Centre has offered Julia a tantalising clue as to where Donald may have gone.

Julia said: “My family were always under the impression that Donald was male but apparently crocodiles are notorious difficult to sex.

“We’ve now seen a record from a newspaper about a crocodile named Donna at Brighton Aquarium. Tenerife is where the trail goes cold.

According to staff at the sea life centre the crocodile came to the centre prior to it changing owners in 1991.

If Donald is in fact Donna the sea life centre’s resident historian believes he/she was sent to a zoo in Tenerife.

Julia is hoping her investigation and social media campaign will help track Donna/Donald down and she will be able to get a picture of her family’s long lost crocodile.

Julia said: “I really believe he’s in Tenerife. I would just love a picture and a little update on how Donna/Donald is doing.”

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