Tuesday, 14 October 2008

London Zoo

The Zoo was sort of a mixed experience for me, so I've summarised in handy pro/con form below. The rest of my shots are up on flickr at the link to the right.

Pro: generally, enjoyable way to see animals other than cats and dogs.
Con: it costs £17 to get in.

Pro: there was an extremely broad range of different species and it was hard to tear myself away from some of them.
Con: I only left myself about 2.5 hours of opening time to see the place, so I found myself rushing past the less "entertaining" animals in favour of the toucans, gorillas, penguins etc.

Pro: the animals were all interesting in their own unique ways - cute, rare, characterful, sometimes beautiful.
Con: the animals on the other side of the railings were more irritating and badly behaved than any of the zoo captives I saw. Including the hyenas.

The behaviour of my fellow spectators was really appalling. Despite the prominent signage about not feeding or disturbing the animals, and asking for quiet around nocturnal and more fragile species, the adults and children I saw in almost every section of the Zoo were loud, rude, pushy and basically just freaking annoying. Two of the worst incidents (among many) was the father encouraging his children to knock on the glass of a nocturnal marsupial in full view of about six signs asking for quiet - to make it do something other than sleep or hide, I guess - and the bevy of idiotic women who let out a chorus of screams when two okapi (similar to zebras) tried to "get busy". Of course the okapi were startled and immediately erm, disengaged and ran away. I could just imagine the animal keepers smacking their foreheads and lamenting the months they'd spent trying to make the okapi breed.

Then there was the gorilla house, where crowds of people had gathered to rap on the glass and squeal with delight at the charismatic gorillas and their wacky antics. A keeper actually had to come out and tell them all to be quiet because the female gorilla they were focused on had started running at the glass because she felt so threatened.

Still, the quieter parts of the zoo - with the less popular animals I guess - were lovely, and generally the animals seemed to have lots of space and be well cared for. And seriously, I don't blame them for charging 17 quid to get in or flogging merchandise at every turn if it means they can keep the animals well, and run education programs and breeding programs. Maybe the Saturday afternoon zoo crowd could do with some of those education programs; like ones that demonstrate how to be a good example for your kids and not to treat an animal park like a fun fair.

End self-righteous pontificating. Brandon Walsh would be proud.

These hyenas were desperately trying to get to something, presumably edible, that was hiding in the logs. They were whining and digging furiously, but no one looking on seemed to know what was under there.

The giraffes were surprisingly beautiful. I've never really thought too much about them before but they were graceful and gangly all at once, strolling about calmly together in polite indifference to the crowds of squawking people.
Meerkat doing its thing
Man draws gorilla
More gorillas
Pygmy hippo
Finally, the llama.

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