Six hundred people flocked to Chippenham’s Neeld Hall in just five hours on Saturday for the return of the Children’s Mega Zoo.

The hall was filled with animals from a variety of continents, including the African meerkat and the South American chinchilla.

The family-friendly event was opened by Chippenham Mayor John Scragg, who was advised against touching the seven-foot albino Burmese python, although he did try holding a corn snake.

“I’m game for anything,” he said.

“I’ve never held a snake before but I just relied on the good judgement of the people running it.

“I was very pleased the zoo came and surprised to learn it had come all the way from Derbyshire.”

A chick was not quite as cute and fluffy as first thought after it relieved itself on the mayor’s brand new jacket, but Coun Scragg took it on the chin and said it cleaned off okay.

Luckily the skunk he also held was feeling less defensive.

The mayor is no stranger to exotic animals, having spent his late teens living in Tanzania, but said his favourite at the Mega Zoo was the guinea pig. He said: “I used to have them as a boy. They’re very affectionate.”

The animals were brought to Chippenham from a wild animal centre near Chesterfield, whose owners gave educational talks on where the animals came from originally and how to look after them.

The children went wild for the face painting and for feeding mealworms to the lizards at the Chippenham Town Council-organised event.

Tourism, events and PR manager Emma King said: “We had 600 people through the door, families loved it. The raccoons and the meerkats were definitely the most popular.”