Top Trumps: All creatures great and small

Butterflies vs bats. Squirrels vs stag beetles. The natural world is at war – but don't worry, it's all for a good cause. Holly Williams plays a game of wildlife Top Trumps

A A A

You're feeling confident. Your card shows the eel. He's a nasty-looking brute – and, as you've just read, he can grow to a slithery 1m long. He has a well-deserved gross out score of 148.

Your first rival has got a dormouse. That's not gross. It's cute, furry, and sleepy, and the card tells you it "hibernates through the winter in a tight ball", giving it a measly gross-out score of two. But your next opponent wields the basking shark. It's certainly ugly, with a huge mouth, even if it does apparently only feed on plankton and "tiny fish". But hey, it's a shark. It wins, with a gross out score of 150.

Trumped!

Pitting these unlikely foes against each other is the National Trust's new version of Top Trumps (£5, Nationaltrust.org.uk/shop), the Eighties playground card game that was revived in 2000, and now comes with an educational spin. It's also a portal to Britain's wildlife. The aim of the game is to make our native creatures interesting and accessible. It's that old learning-through-fun chestnut, and this version of Top Trumps delivers pretty well on both. Thirty cards show a range of creatures, from the attractive and cuddly to the really rather unpleasant. There are points for mobility, ferocity (watch out for those pike), lifespan and rarity, as well as facts and figures about each insect or animal – which hopefully will pique interest in creatures and conservation beyond just a quick card battle.

That's the aim for the National Trust: to get children interested in what and where the wild things are. "It's really important," says Matthew Oates, the NT's nature conservation adviser. "I'm sure it will help raise levels of awareness and interest. But we want to say 'you can learn in a fun way'. A lot of wildlife is fun. Most of the animals we use have curious life cycles, or do amazing things like migrate thousands of miles. We wanted to celebrate the amazing things wildlife gets up to; it really is something we can all enjoy and wonder at.

"We also cover the nasty side of things too. It would be wrong for us to just say 'oh it's pretty'. It's not about beauty, but about appreciating the awe and wonder in nature. A lot have really high gross out scores and significant ferocity levels – even ones you might not expect." The male purple emperor butterfly – which does look rather regal – turns out to "drink juices from nasty things ... especially dog and fox poo". Gross out score: 93.

Oates, who worked with his colleague Lucy Cordey in selecting the 30 animals, explains they also wanted to have a good range, to really boost awareness of creatures a young player might never even have heard of. "The pack contains a mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar, and actually we only know a lot of these animals remotely. Some things people see everyday, like the blackbird, but then there are creatures you very rarely see." So the natterjack toad (fun fact: it buries itself in damp sand during the day – and all winter long) is likely to trump on rarity.

Unless, that is, you're up against its fellow high scorer, the large blue butterfly. "We wanted to have animals with a conservation message," says Oates. "The large blue butterfly, for instance, was brought back from extinction in Britain. That really does offer hope – it's not all doom and gloom."

So aside from the rarities, how did they choose what went in? "It was a bit of a battle of wills," confesses Oates. "We had to be consistent, but there was quite a bit of debate – at times almost heated – about what animals were included. It wasn't easy.

"I was sad to see some go. It would have been nice to have more insects and invertebrates; it would have been nice to have a snail. But we just had to have a pony, for the horsey girls, and the red squirrel and puffin were absolute musts – people would expect them."

Oates admits he had a personal deal breaker: "I'm going to out myself as a great fan of the purple emperor butterfly. Right at the beginning I said it had to go in. There was a bit of favouritism. But we all have plants and animals of which we are particularly fond, and that's ok."

After a flip through the deck, I'm choosing the otter as my favourite (beating off competition from the red squirrel and the bizarre long-eared bat, whose hilariously huge ears "help it feed by echo-location"). In a stand-off, my otter would take down Oates' butterfly on rarity, ferocity, lifespan – the poor purple emperor only lives for 0.04 years – not to mention mobility, for which the otter gets a slinky 70. The butterfly still wins on the gross out , thanks to that dirty juice habit it's got. Intriguing and informative, the National Trust has come up trumps with this one.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative - Unskilled & Skilled

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen to jo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Law Firm - Bromley

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Market...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee