Thursday, 30 June 2011

Z is for... Zoos!

I'm somewhat amazed I made it through these 30 days without missing a post! I'm also amazed you've all stuck with me through this challenge. I hope you've enjoyed reading through my A to Z of me.

Z is another tricky letter to pick for. I thought I'd post about zoos, since I've visited a fair few and have plans to visit more. Next on the list is Chester Zoo (amazingly, I never went even though I lived in Chester for a year) as they've just had a tiger cub born and I'd love to see it.

I have a love-hate relationship with zoos. Part of me loves to go and see all the amazing creatures I'll probably never have a chance to see in the wild. But part of me hates to go and see these animals caged in enclosures that are too small and not enriched enough for them. London Zoo is particularly bad for this; I feel so sad when I see the giraffes in their ancient giraffe house, with only a small concrete yard outside to stretch their long legs in. I was much happier seeing the giraffes at Longleat Safari Park.

They have an enormous field to run around in!
In fact, Longleat trumps most of the other zoos I've visited. We went last year, and had some wonderful up close encounters with a variety of animals. There's a room you can walk through with bats flying free; they fly so close to your face and sometimes wee on you as they go past! Fruit bats though, so it's mostly just processed fruit juice that comes out. Unfortunately, no flash photography in that room, so my photos of the bats are not brilliant.

In the big game reserve section of the park, we had a close encounter with a female ostritch, who was walking along the road sticking her head inside all the cars. She came right up to my window, but luckily we didn't have any food in the car so she didn't investigate too closely!

The rhinos are so impressive. They have a man sat in a tractor with a big padded ram on the front, in case they start getting agitated and try to charge the cars going past. We were lucky to drive by when they were very close to the road; as we drove away the tractor had to move in and gently urge them back into the field.

Credit where credit's due, this picture was taken by Jamie, not by me
(he was on the right side of the car)
 More recently, we visited Twycross Zoo. I wanted to go because I'd read they have a lot of monkeys, more than the other zoos. We happened to be up that way for a party, so headed over the following day (a tad hungover, but never mind). There were indeed lots of monkeys! The chimpanzees and bonobos both decided Jamie (being very tall, and wearing a big black coat) was a threat, so did a variety of dominance displays while we were watching them. The most impressive being the chimpanzee who swung his way up to the roof of his enclosure, hurling poo over the wall at us!

I didn't miss out on all the fun, though. While watching the gibbon's acrobatic displays, one took offense at me, and tried to wee on me through the mesh.

Luckily there were a couple of metres between it and me, and he missed.

He tried to look innocent, but I wasn't fooled.
The main highlight of Twycross is the Amur Leopard. We were lucky, he was out and about in his (rather tiny) enclosure, making a complete racket.

Amur Leopard
How beautiful is he?
They also have snow leopards, in a huge rocky enclosure next to the (overpriced) cafe. They were hiding when we arrived, and hiding the entire time we ate our (uninspiring) lunch. We had resigned ourselves to not seeing them at all, but then as we left, we spotted one.
He was just chillin'
It made my day. I love snow leopards, they are so rare. David Attenborough's team got some amazing footage of them in a recent series; the guy filming it camped out in a tiny hut in the freezing cold for something like three years to get it. Look at that huge fluffy tail! Gorgeous.
Most recently of course, we visited Beale Park, which featured in my K is for Kangaroos post. Mostly animals I'd seen before, or variations on a theme (rhea instead of ostriches, for example). But also some new ones, like the coati. 


On the whole, zoos have to be a force for good, otherwise they'd have all been shut down already. But I wish there was more money available for them to spend on improving the facilites for the animals they keep. I'd feel a lot happier about visiting them if I could see all the animals were happy.


  1. What an awesome place to visit.  Boy, that rhino looks like a mean, concrete wall w/wrinkles.  I wonder why monkeys try to pee and poop on you.  Do all of them do that?  There was an orangutang that did that at our zoo and boy could he throw far!

  2. Alittlebitsheepish30 June 2011 at 07:56

    Longleat is lovely, I am not keen on zoos with small cages either. What is Twycross like generally? Would like to see the monkeys and tortoises that they have

  3. On the whole, Twycross is a good zoo. The giant tortoises were awesome. Most of the monkeys have plenty of space, with lots of things for them to do. There's a real variety of non-monkey animals too, and the baby asian elephant was adorable. We went on quite a miserable, grey and windy October day, and we were massively hungover. I think I'd have enjoyed it more had it been sunny and had I not been feeling so delicate!

  4. I try to think of zoos as a necessary evil, fortunately, here in florida we have good funding for our zoos, mostly because of disney.  you have some lovely pictures of  the leopards. I would love to see them up close.


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