Who's new at the Discovery Centre?
Tuesday 6 July 2004
On your next visit to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, don't forget to visit our Discovery Centre, which is home to a fascinating array of species from tamarins to turtles, from big snakes to sea horses
We're particularly excited about our new arrivals, the Lake Malawi Cichlids - a beautiful species, which come from Lake Malawi in Africa.
Lake Malawi is host to hundreds of different species of cichlids, which have developed their own shapes, colours and behaviours to adapt to the different environments in each area of the lake. These have evolved over thousands of years from just a few species, which originally colonised the lake.
Don't be alarmed if you see tiny fish swimming in and out of the mother's mouth - she's not trying to eat her young. Cichlids are 'mouth brooders' which means that they carry their babies in their mouth!
The Matamata Turtles are another 'must see' highlight. 'Matamata' is the South American Indian name for the turtle, which means, 'I kill'. It also has a Latin name, 'Chelus fimbriatus', which means 'fringed turtle'. This is because of the small, multi-branched tufts or flaps along its head and neck, which drift and sway with the current, making the turtle look like it is covered with weeds or algae. Algae also grows on the turtle's back, making it look like an encrusted rock - a perfect disguise which helps it to blend in with its surroundings!
The Matamata lives in muddy, shallow pools and streams in northern South America, from Ecuador and Peru in the West, to Bolivia and central Brazil in the South, and as far north as Colombia and Venezuela.
To hunt, the Matamata hides motionless at the bottom of the water, camouflaged like a pile of rocks, occasionally stretching its long neck out to take a breath. When a fish comes too close, it will suddenly thrust out its head and open its mouth, which acts like a vacuum cleaner, sucking its prey inside. Matamatas have also been known to herd their prey into a confined area before sucking them into their mouths.
Matamata turtles Come and see these and many other fabulous animals in the Discovery Centre and find out what they're really like.