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Children's programme criticised for making jest of animals

The new CBBC programme called 'The Zoo' was filmed at Paignton zoo. Photo: ITV News

A new children's programme filmed at a Devon Zoo has been criticised for making jest of animals.

The Born Free Foundation has called for the new CBBC programme called 'The Zoo' to be axed.

The programme was filmed at Paignton zoo and anthropomorphises the animals - giving them human voices and characteristics.

The show was filmed at Paignton zoo. Credit: ITV West Country

The children's TV show had caused controversy before it had even gone to air, with the Born Free Foundation, animal welfare charity condemning it.

Although it has been called the 'Animal Magic' of the 21st Century. The charity says it is mis-educational by filming captive animals comicly and giving them emotions that don't exist, and should be scrapped.

Some staff at Paignton zoo disagree.

This is a comedy programme , they need to just get over it, I mean it is comedy, it's fun, it's engaging it's crazy, it's not real life, I think it will get a lot of people really interested in the whole idea of zoos, animals, wildlife, conservation."

– Phil Knowling, Paignton Zoo

Paignton Zoo also say the BBC's Natural History Unit team behind the programme, spent more than three months not just filming, but also doing research about the animals.

The Born Free Foundation says programmes of this kind, like Animal Magic, should stay in the past.

I was surprised to see that we haven't really moved on from the days of Johnny Morris with this programme. It is exactly the same type of model, putting silly voices over animals, wild animals in captivity, quite often threatened animals, animals that are threatened in the wild, to me it is not really doing an educational role at all, it is obviously doing a comedic role and that is absolutely fine but it is a shame it comes at the expense of what is actually quite a serious issue here, we need to be moving away from teaching our kids that keeping animals in zoos is acceptable and that it is something to be laughed at."

– Chris Draper, Born Free Foundation

Among visitors at Paignton Zoo today, were those who were already fans of the programme:

Some young fans of the programme called it "funny".

The BBC has said it hopes other people will watch the programme too before passing judgement.

Watch Claire Manning's full report below: