Market shoppers meet the meerkats – and a tarantula

MEERKATS and other exotic animals came face to face with families in Sheffield's Castle Market when the owner of a mini zoo set out his stall as part of a promotional effort.

Youngsters were invited to meet animals and insects owned by Bryan Paterson, who travelled from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, to put on the wildlife exhibition for market shoppers.

As well as the meerkats, Mr Paterson brought scorpions, a boa constrictor and a red knee tarantula, which is more commonly found in the mountains of Mexico.

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Kylie Aveyard, of Greenhill, Sheffield, introduced her two-year-old son Caine and daughter Skye, three, to the menagerie during a shopping trip in the market earlier this week.

Mrs Aveyard said: "It's great to be hands-on with the animals and my son and daughter were mesmerised.

"We've seen meerkats on television, but we never thought we'd get to meet the real thing.

"They look so cute and cuddly but we were told their teeth are razor sharp as they eat hard-shelled millipedes, centipedes and scorpions.

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"They apparently forage in groups with one 'sentry' on guard always watching for predators. I didn't know but Bryan explained sentry duty is approximately an hour long."

Mr Paterson, was invited to put on his exhibition by Sheffield Council, which runs Castle Market, as part of an attempt to attract more people to browse the stalls.

He answered questions and gave talks about habitat, feeding and conservation during his day in the city.