A family run zoo in Devon has become the unlikely inspiration for a Hollywood movie. The new film, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, tells the story of Ben Mee and his family, who bought a run-down zoo despite having no experience of animals and only limited funds.

Mr Mee, a former newspaper DIY columnist, his brother Duncan and their mother Amelia purchased the Dartmoor Zoological Park in August 2006 for £1.1m. Mr Mee, his wife Katherine and their children Milo and Ella moved into the decaying mansion that occupies the park.

They were joined by co-owners Amelia, 76, and Duncan, 47, and quickly learnt how to cope with faulty plumbing, rising damp, wet rot and a lack of heating.

The group also found themselves the proud owners of five Siberian tigers, three African lions, nine wolves, three brown bears, two pumas, a lynx, four Asian short-clawed otters, two flamingos, a flock of owls, a Brazilian tapir called Ronnie, vervet monkeys, several emus, a herd of deer, a llama, various reptiles, boa constrictors and a tarantula spider.                     –ON