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A Siberian tiger walks around an enclosure at the Banham Zoo, about 30 miles east of RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath.
A Siberian tiger walks around an enclosure at the Banham Zoo, about 30 miles east of RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
A Siberian tiger walks around an enclosure at the Banham Zoo, about 30 miles east of RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath.
A Siberian tiger walks around an enclosure at the Banham Zoo, about 30 miles east of RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
A red kangaroo keeps an eye on another animal inside the Australian Paddock area.
A red kangaroo keeps an eye on another animal inside the Australian Paddock area. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
A slender-tailed meerkat looks out for predators while on its hind legs inside an enclosure at the Banham Zoo.
A slender-tailed meerkat looks out for predators while on its hind legs inside an enclosure at the Banham Zoo. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
A bald eagle gives a threatening stare to a visitor at the zoo.
A bald eagle gives a threatening stare to a visitor at the zoo. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL — For all the ample quaintness that comes with living in and around the English countryside, not much can be said about the local fauna. Sure, the birds are nice. There might even be some larger animals about. But as in the rest of Western Europe, you’re probably going to be the biggest and baddest mammal around. That’s just how it is.

So for those who want to get up close and personal with some wild animals while staying in the heart of rural Britannia, gather up the kids and check out the Banham Zoo, an intimate experience with critters from distant lands.

But this isn’t the standard zoological trip for you and the kids. The Banham Zoo offers a variety of fun programs and activities that can make learning fun.

Chief among these attractions is the zoo’s “Amazing Animals” shows, where staff take attendees through everything they’d want to know about the various animals at the zoo, from the talking macaws to nonthreatening small mammals.

But perhaps the coolest feature of all the animals at the zoo — which include big work horses, Siberian tigers and frolicking primates — is the birds of prey area. On a recent day, a visitor could get eye to eye with a massively majestic bald eagle, a native of America who is living in England. Just like you.

Zoo staff place birds of prey on display outside on nice days, and save for a cord around their ominous talons, people, falcons and eagles are not more than a few feet from each other.

Another cool feature is the open area for deer and marmots. These black tailed prairie marmots are chubby little groundhog-like creatures, and a walk through the area allows visitors to mingle with the ridiculously cute little guys. Zoo staff just ask that you close the gate on your way out.

Staff also offer feeding talks and displays for the zoo’s penguins, tigers, seals and other creatures.

As if all the interactivity and the close-in nature of the zoo weren’t enough, you can also be a zookeeper for a day. As a temporary colleague, visitors can let the colobus monkeys out into their play area, while also helping zookeepers tend to the pandas and other wild animals.

With its open-air design and host of activities available, the Banham Zoo is the ideal way to kill a Saturday if you’re jonesing for a little wildlife, all in the heart of England.

Banham Zoo

Banham Zoo is about 45 minutes away from RAF Mildenhall. Take the A11 north, and you’ll soon see brown signs guiding you to the zoo.

The zoo is open every day — except Christmas and Boxing Day — at 10 a.m. The zoo closes at 5 p.m. until Oct. 29. The last admission is one hour prior to closing.

Admission:

Adults – 10.95 poundsChildren – 7.50 poundsChildren younger than 3 – freeGroups of 12 or more can get discounted group rates.For more information on Banham Zoo, log on to banhamzoo.co.uk or call 019538 87771.

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