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Ten things you never knew about… lions

1. Estimates of the number of lions living in the wild range from 20,000 to 39,000. A century ago there were at least 10 times as many.2. About 15,000 lions live in Tanzania which is far more than any other country.3. London Zoo has been…

Ten things you never knew about… Singapore

1. The name of Singapore comes from the Sanskrit “Simhapura” meaning “Lion city”. It is based on the legendary sighting of a lion there in 1299.2. There have never been any wild lions in Singapore but it may have been a tiger.3. The…

Ten things you never knew about… cats

1. A group of cats is a “clowder” but “a glaring of cats” and “a pounce of cats” are also used. For wild cats, it is “a destruction”.2. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII condemned cats as evil and sentenced them to death.3. Cats usually have five…

Ten things you never knew about…Ivory Coast

1. The name of Ivory Coast was given to the region by French and Portuguese merchants in the 15th and 16th centuries reflecting its major ivory trade.2. Ivory Coast is now the world's largest producer of cocoa beans which are 40 per cent of…

Ten things you never knew about… Jamaica

1. When Christopher Columbus first saw Jamaica on May 5, 1494 he described it as “the fairest isle that eyes ever beheld”.2. Jamaica’s name comes from the Arawak word for the island “Xaymaca” (land of wood and water).3. Jamaica has won Miss…

Ten things you never knew about… Switzerland

1. Skiing in Switzerland was made popular by Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle.2. Switzerland was occupied by the French from 1798-1815 but has not had a war since 1505.3. The average Swiss person eats 10.5kg (23lb) of chocolate a…

Ten things you never knew about… sheep

1. There are about 1.2 billion sheep in the world. China, with around 200 million, has more than twice as many as any other country.2. There are roughly seven sheep per person in New Zealand and three sheep per person in Wales.3. Mongolia…

Ten things you never knew about… wizards

1. The word “wizard” (spelt “wisard” in the 15th century) originally simply meant a wise man.2. In Arthurian legend, the wizard Merlin was said to be the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess.3. The full name of the Wizard of Oz in Frank…

Ten thing you never knew about… lifts

1. According to a Thyssenkrupp Elevators study, 66 per cent of people would rather not talk in lifts.2. The study also reported that Beyoncé is the favourite celebrity to be stuck in a lift with while Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are the…

Ten things you never knew about… heatwaves

1. Actually there is no official definition in the UK of a heatwave, though the Meteorological Office is said to be working on producing one.2. The World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva defines it as a period of more than five…

Ten things you never knew about… raincoats

1. This year is also the 200th anniversary of the invention in1818, by Scottish chemist James Syme, of a technique for dissolving rubber in coal tar which led to the development of the Mackintosh.2. Charles Macintosh patented his waterproof…

Ten things you never knew about… Mont Blanc

1. The prize was offered by Horace Bénédict de Saussure, praised by many as the first modern meteorologist and inventor of the solar oven. 2. Mont Blanc was first climbed in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard. 3. The first…

Ten things you never knew about… parks

1. Originally, in the 13th century, a park meant an enclosed tract of land held by royal grant and reserved for hunting deer and other game.2. There are 113,000 National Parks and similarly protected areas on Earth, covering six per cent of…