We have been promising to go to London Zoo for years, literally years, but due to the price of tickets we have put it off, but since it re-opened after Lockdown there seems to be a reduction in fees, so we finally got a chance to go.
Tickets were still £30 each, not a cheap day out
We have been to Malaga Zoo in Spain a few years back and had a great day out and tickets there were just €10 each and it’s a lovely zoo – go if you ever get to go on holiday again! – So our expectations were high for the famous London Zoo,
It is set in the top of Regent’s Park, for travel plans you are best approaching from Camden as it is closer than Regent’s Park or Baker St and is set in a huge complex of enclosures, buildings and exhibits at the NorthEast corner of the Royal Park.
We got the afternoon ticket, because who we kidding we were not going to be there at 9am! At 1.50 the entrance was quiet and then the hoards descended, from nowhere masses of family groups appeared and surged through the entrance, through the bag check (what do they look for? Are they expecting you to open a bag and have bricks of C4 inside?) and we managed to get past the queues by simply having printed out our tickets, rather than using our phones.
Inside was a chaotic cacophony of screaming brats, yelling parents and a ton of people taking the ‘We got in’ selfie, the first of 1,000 each individual seems to need to take on any excursion.
The new system to keep the public moving for Social Distancing and the like is basically four routes, Blue, Orange, Pink and Green, although the Green route is a mystery, because it’s not marked on the maps, only on the floor arrows. Also sporadically there are hand sanitiser booths but a not a mask in sight.
The other three routes are just as confusing, they follow no logical route, they come and go, arrows, point in all directions and send you up and down the same path and all seem to direct you to the central area and the shops, the closed carousel and the picnic area, which is vast and a waste of space, but more of that in a bit.
We followed the Orange Route first off to the Penguins, Butterflies and then got confused, because the Flamingos, the Monkeys and Hog are in the Blue Route but right next to where you come out of the Butterfly Dome.
The butterfly dome was much the same as the Butterfly dome that was put up in Mayfair last year.
From this point on we just walked and found, well not a lot really. There are a lot, we mean a lot, of birds and Aviaries, special houses that look like a victorian exhibition, with a few finches in, a lot of empty cages and a lot of fenced areas that seem filled with Sparrows, the park’s local inhabitants, who can fit through the fence and steal the food, but finding a Hyacinth Macaw or a Grey Kite, the Purple Sparkly Starling or a Tufted Duck is never going to happen, even though the sign says they should be in the enclosure, all you see are sparrows!
After over an hour of bird hunting, we found the petting zoo, which is shut, we found 100’s of screaming uncontrollable children and one Mongoose!
More wandering and eventually we saw a sleeping Lion, sure he needs he sleep and we don’t want him upset, but that was all, one Lion in an enclosure filled with junk and old train pieces, a pool of dirty water and then in a separate enclosure 3 Lionesses, the enclosures were impressive in terms of art, a lot of time and effort has been taken to dress the pens. However none of them look authentic to the natural habitat of each animal and where they have spent the time painting murals or putting stupid signs/broken down trains etc they could have cleaned the water or actually made the habitat more realistic. There is no signage to point you to the animals, we only found the Lionesses by going up a ramp we were sure was closed off to the public and we couldn’t even find the “Outback” which was somewhere in the back section past the ‘tiger’ and the cordoned off section, if you went left then it may have been there but who knows? The staff didn’t.
Then there is the condition of the animals, the pens and enclosures as we say are sometimes really small, barely four times the size of the animal, many are filled with stupid things, like toilet bowls and old train carts, things to entertain the masses, not the animals, the creatures themselves looked thin, underfed, lethargic and docile. Most of the time crammed into a tiny corner against the enclosure windows, there was a Vulture wedged under a fence, unable to move, with children prodding and poking it through the cage with straws etc but not one member of staff was around to stop them. The Tiger’s pool was filled with moss and algae, there were monkeys eating the fence and trying to break the mesh to get to weeds to eat and the Komodo Dragon had a vast amount of skin peeling and was put in a small enclosure with (just it and a log). The snakes seemed to be mid way through shedding with portions of its scales stuck, including the shedding over the eyeball – that really needed help de-scaling and looked stressed and uncomfortable.
Two thirds of the Reptiles Enclosure’s tanks were empty, or filled with stupid things, like an OutBack OutHouse to demonstrate where Aussie Spiders live, another tank had a Crocodile Skin Bag on display, a kind of statement piece, saying this is the only Crocodile was have and it was killed to make a bag, which we get the point of, but it also seemed stupid to do and waste a tank on.
The Giraffe House was silly, you had to walk all around the interior just to end up at the far end, so that you could walk back along the front where the Giraffe’s were out near a busy road, with a stupid sign saying I love the NHS – why the hell would Giraffes even know what the NHS is let alone love it? The Okapi’s and Zebras were nowhere to be seen, the Wart Hogs were missing, the Hunting Dogs are better seen from outside the zoo across the Canal but again looked lethargic and barely moving.
In fact consistently through the whole visit there was not one animal who was playing or actively interacting with each other. Which has not been our experience in any other zoo’s from around the world. It seems sad to not see them feel happy enough to play and instead only be looking around for the keepers who have the food.
A few of the penguins had been bullied and had no lower plumage – leaving raw pink skin – but it seems no one cared
The Zoo’s Website boasts over 19035 animals, we think they must have counted the entire colony of Maggots in the Bug House to get that number, because we saw no Zebra’s, Hippo’s, Rhino’s, Elephants, Bears, Bovine, Equines of any size or kind, No Wolves, Deer, Bison, no Rabbits and only 5 Big Cats. We saw two of the Gorilla’s even though the zoo make a big deal about how many they have, there are a lot of missing creatures and the website claims they have them all. But what we now realise is that the ZSL boasts this because all these missing creatures have been moved to their other site, Whipsnade Zoo, which is not in London at all, even though they say it is, but is actually in Bedfordshire, near Dunstable and a lot harder to get to.
Honestly the only parts we enjoyed were the Bats and Lemur enclosure, simply because the Animal Handlers and Volunteers in the building where these were, we clearly very fond of their charges and took much better care of the inhabitants.
The Staff in General seem great and caring if a little confused at what was going on, they love their jobs and why wouldn’t they, it’s a great job! It’s just the company, the admin and the business that lets it all down, the infrastructure and the money needed to make this zoo as good as it should be is seriously lacking, it needs more money spent on the enclosures, it needs all those open picnic areas and shops removed and new, bigger, batter pens, tanks, and cages built, rather than making another giant souvenir shop.
Obviously they need money to run the place but it seems they really don’t care about the animals, just the bottom line and those poor creatures are just taken away from ZSL’s profits.
So all in all, we were not impressed, the animals need better care, better environments to live in and the staff need more resources and there needs to be more animals not less.
They need to take a leaf out of Malaga’s book and see how it can be done.
Well there you go, that’s our opinion, Have you been to London Zoo recently, what did you think? Did you find all the missing animals?
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