Explore habitats and some of the creatures that live in them at the Horniman in this learning resource.

Download the resources below, or if you would like to make your own trails or worksheets tailored to your visit, many of the images and text below (and in our other resources) can be easily copied and pasted to your own design.

  • Perhaps use images from objects located in different galleries and in the Gardens to create a challenge or simple trail through the Museum to find specific objects or places.
  • Use object images to encourage independent research, for instance, find out and write down three facts about an object or group of objects. Alternatively, give facts or clues and challenge your pupils to identify mystery objects.
  • Set an alphabetical challenge ie find or draw 26 objects one for each letter of the alphabet.
  • Create a sketchbook challenge.

Turtle trouble

Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaws rely on their rainforest habitat for survival. They nest in the canopy at night and then early morning they will fly some distance in search of food, which includes a variety of fruits, nuts, flowers or nectar. They are social animals and live in pairs, family groups, or flocks of 10 to 30, which helps give them protection from predators like large snakes and birds of prey.

Macaws have large, powerful beaks which crush nuts and seeds. They have strong, flexible toes they use to grab and examine items and allows them to hang upside down.

These parrots have a loud squawk which can be heard up to 2 miles away! This helps them alert danger, mark territory, and communicate within the group.

Scarlet macaws are threatened by habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.

Peruvian Spider monkey

The Peruvian Spider Monkey lives in rainforests in South America. They have long arms, hook-like hands and prehensile (gripping) tails. Their tail helps them to swing through the rainforest from branch to branch. They are very skilled at climbing and live high up in the rainforest canopy. Here it is safer; they can look out for predators and there is plenty of food.

They live in groups and are very vocal. They eat fruit but when food is scarce they will adapt their diet to eat insects and leaves.

This monkey is endangered due to loss of their rainforest habitat, hunting and illegal pet trade.

Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth

Why rush? Sloths are slow-moving, nocturnal creatures that spend almost their entire life upside down in trees. They have curved, sharp claws for hanging onto branches and for climbing. Their hair grows in the opposite direction from the hair of other mammals which allows water to run off their fur in the rain. Green algae grows in their fur which helps to camouflage to the trees in their rainforest home.

Sloths’ slowness helps them to conserve energy and to avoid being detected by predators. Staying up in the canopy for most of the day hides them from predators such as jaguars and snakes.

Snowy Owl

Snowy owls are well adapted to their Arctic habitat. They survive extreme cold temperatures because of a thick layer of feathers all over their bodies, including their feet! The feathers trap air to keep them warm and of course camouflage in the snow too.

Unlike most owls, the snowy owl hunts day and night, as the Arctic can have daylight 24 hours a day in summer. They have amazing hearing and can detect prey moving even under the snow. Like other owls, they have a short hooked beak for gripping prey and large eyes for excellent vision.


Walruses live in one of the harshest environments on Earth. They are found in the Arctic Ocean as well as the Sub-Arctic regions and spend the majority of their time in extremely cold waters. To keep warm they have a thick layer of blubber under their skin. They can also break this down for energy when needed.

Walruses have sensitive whiskers to seek out shellfish on the ocean floor (as they have poor eyesight). Their tusks are used for fighting other males and to help pull themselves out of the water.

Reindeer fur

How do reindeers keep warm? Caribou or reindeer (domesticated caribou) have two layers of fur covering their bodies to keep them warm. They have a fine under-fur and a thick coat of guard hairs on top. Guard hairs are hollow like straws. The air trapped inside the hollow hairs act as insulation to keep in the caribou's body heat. Caribou are excellent swimmers: and the hollow hairs help them to be buoyant in the water and their large hooves help them to swim.

They have an excellent sense of smell which is very important in the winter months when food can be scarce.

Thorny Devil

How would you keep cool in the desert? Thorny devils are small lizards covered in spikes. Narrow channels between the scales allow droplets of dew or rain to roll towards its mouth. This allows them to survive in their desert habitat with very little water. The thorns protect them from predators such as snakes and birds. Thorny devils also have a large spike (sometimes called a false head) to distract predators.

Thorny devils can change colour to camouflage with their habitat and their body colour also helps with heat control and varies with their temperature. These lizards eat ants and have long sticky tongues to catch their prey.


Scorpions live in many habitats such as deserts, grasslands and rainforests. Many desert species live in burrows to hide from predators and to keep cool on hot days and warm during cold nights.

Scorpions are not insects but arachnids, like spiders. They often hunt for their prey at night and use their pincers to quickly grab their catch (often insects) and crush it. Then they can whip their poisonous ‘tail’ stinger over to kill or paralyze their prey. Their ‘tail’ is also used as a defence against predators. Most scorpions use their venomous sting only if needed, as it takes a lot of energy to produce more venom. When food is scarce they can slow their metabolism so they need to eat less. Some can survive up to a year without eating!

All scorpions have venom, but of the 1,500 or so species, only about 25 are considered life-threatening to humans. The sting of most species is enough to kill an insect or spider but is merely painful to humans, similar to a bee sting.

Desert Horned Viper

Desert horned vipers will bury themselves in the sand to avoid the extreme heat of their habitat. Their scales camouflage with the sand so they can surprise their prey (usually lizards). They attack their prey rapidly and hold tight until their venom takes effect. They tend to hunt for prey at night when it’s cooler, and there are more animals out to catch.

The viper’s venom is not usually fatal to humans, but a bite can be very nasty. Would you like to live in a desert?

Brain coral

Brain coral is an animal found in shallow warm water coral reefs in all the world's oceans. These corals get their name from the grooves and channels on their surfaces that look like the folds of the human brain.

Brain corals extend their tentacles to catch food at night. During the day, they use their tentacles for protection by wrapping them over the grooves on their surface.

These corals grow slowly, becoming solid, heavy and strong enough to withstand storms that can destroy more delicate coral.

Tiger Shark

Tiger sharks have an excellent sense of sight and smell to catch their prey. They have sharp, serrated teeth and powerful jaws to bite into their prey such as sea turtles and clams. They feed at night, and due to their camouflage and slow swimming speed, tiger sharks are often only seen at the last minute. They are capable of a powerful burst of acceleration, which they use to capture their prey.

Why do you think they are called a tiger shark?

Porcupine fish

While most fish are covered in flat scales, porcupine fish have sharp spines. Their spines lay flat against their bodies until they sense danger. Then they fill up with water or air, growing to three times their normal size! When this happens, their spines stick out from their bodies making them difficult to eat.

Porcupine fish are nocturnal and spend most of the night seeking food. Their large eyes help them to see and catch prey such as crabs, snails and sea urchins in the dark.

Some porcupine fish are poisonous .Their poison is not in their spines but in their organs and is deadly if eaten. These fish have few predators because of their successful defences but some sharks will eat them as they are immune to their toxins.

Great spotted woodpecker

Why do woodpeckers peck? It helps uncover food under the bark and in the wood of the tree and creates holes to build a nest. The drumming sound is a call to other woodpeckers to declare their home and to attract a mate.

Woodpeckers use their extremely long, sticky tongue to reach and eat insects and larvae they find in holes in tree trunks. They also feed on nuts and berries in the winter.

Woodpeckers can peck up to 20 times per second without getting a headache. They have a ‘spongy’ skull that absorbs the tapping and therefore protects their brain!

Red squirrel

Have you ever seen a red squirrel? In some parts of the UK they can be very difficult to spot. Since people introduced grey squirrels from America the numbers of reds have declined. Grey squirrels are larger than red squirrels and often win in the competition for food. They can also carry a disease that can kill reds. Red squirrels are also threatened because of the loss of their woodland habitat However in Scotland, red squirrels are more common.

Red squirrels’ bushy tails help them to balance when climbing and jumping. They spend much of their time up in trees away from predators and in their nests (dreys). Squirrels get up at dawn to spend the daylight hours foraging for food. They are well known for hoarding food to prepare for the winter months, when supplies are low. They bury seeds and nuts in the autumn and use these supplies throughout the winter and spring.

Stag beetle

Have you ever spotted a stag beetle? The numbers of these beetles have declined in recent years due to the loss of their habitat; woodland, hedgerows & parks.

The stag beetle is one of Britain’s largest insects. Male stag beetles have large jaws which are used to fight other males over territories or food. Females have smaller jaws but they are more powerful. They spend most of their life underground as larvae, (young stag beetles) only emerging for a few weeks to find a mate and reproduce. Larvae eat dead and decaying wood and put important minerals back into the soil.

Could you help create a stag beetle home of a log pile or leaving an area of garden wild?