Feb 1

With all of its lights, sequins and drama, London’s West End is almost as dazzling, colourful and exciting as the natural world. Many of the ARKive team enjoy the odd trip to the theatre, and always come away amazed by the performances they’ve witnessed. So we decided to turn the tables and quiz some of Theatreland’s residents to find out what fascinates them about our area of work…wildlife!

Gina Beck

Currently found in the rather green musical Wicked, Gina Beck also recently starred in The Phantom of the Opera, where she shared the stage with a large prop version of her favourite species…

African elephant image

The African elephant is the largest living terrestrial mammal

My favourite species is the African elephant!” says Gina. “I was lucky enough to visit South Africa on tour with a show, and we had a wonderful day at an elephant sanctuary. We were able to get really up close and personal with these beautiful animals.

The African elephant is a truly enigmatic creature, but sadly it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with the ivory trade and conflict with humans being the key causes for its decline.

Gina learned a lot about elephants during her time at the sanctuary, and gained an appreciation for the need for conservation, “Conservation, of species and ecosystems, is incredibly important to maintain the health of the environment and the quality of life on this planet.

African elephant image

The African elephant has a gestation period of nearly two years

Did you know?

  • An elephant’s skull comprises up to 25% of its total body weight.
  • An adult elephant needs to eat about 160kg of food a day.
  • Unlike most mammals, African elephants continue to grow throughout their lives, although the rate of growth does slow down once they reach maturity.
  • The low-frequency rumbles produced by the African elephant to communicate with each other can be heard at distances of eight kilometres or more.

Tori Johns

Tori Johns one of Gina’s co-stars in The Phantom of the Opera, has chosen another African mammal as her favourite species, but one which is considerably smaller than Gina’s!

Meerkat image

Meerkats are highly sociable animals

I find meerkats very amusing. But I also think that there is something very human about them in the way that they interact with each other,” says Tori. A baby meerkat is probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen!

The highly sociable meerkat lives in underground burrows in groups of up to 50 individuals. While out and about foraging, one or two meerkats will be on duty as ‘sentries’, keeping an eye out for predators. A sentry will stay at its post, usually an exposed mound or bush, for an hour or more at a time, and will use its extensive vocal repertoire to warn group members of potential aerial or terrestrial dangers.

Meerkat image

Meerkats mainly forage for insects and other invertebrates

Tori’s favourite wildlife experience occurred in Australia, where she saw the unusual quokka, a Vulnerable marsupial, “A few years ago now I visited Rottnest Island whilst on holiday in Perth, Australia. I was lucky enough to see the quokkas that live there. They are extremely cute and look like small, dumpy versions of a kangaroo! I feel so lucky to have seen this species in the wild.

Quokka image

The quokka is also known as the short-tailed wallaby

Did you know?

  • The quokka was once thought to be a large rat.
  • It is also known as the short-tailed wallaby.
  • Thanks to specialised feeding and digestive adaptations, the quokka can go for months without drinking water.

Tori tells us why she feels that conservation is important, “Conservation efforts help to ensure the survival of many species which otherwise might not have a guaranteed future. It also helps raise general awareness of the other animals and plants that we share this world with.

Join us again soon to find out what species have been chosen by other West End stars such as Kerry Ellis and Oliver Tompsett…!

Why not have a browse around the ARKive website to seek out your favourite species? You might be surprised at what you find! Then help spread the wildlife love by tweeting about your favourite awesome animal or peculiar plant using the #LoveSpecies hashtag!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author