Like every great capital city, London boasts a fantastic animal zoo. However, like a lot of things in the UK capital, this is one of the finest examples in the world.
London Zoo was first opened in April 1828, making it the world’s oldest scientific zoo. It is also home to one of the largest collection of animals in the UK, with more than 17,000 individual animals across 756 different species.
Due to its location within Regent’s Park, ZSL London Zoo (which is its official name) is sometimes referred to as Regent’s Zoo.
Enough background information though, what can visitors get up to during their time here?
On a typical day…
With so much to see and do at London Zoo, there is a daily schedule of events, feeds and demonstrations to help visitors appreciate a broad range of animals.
Currently, this programme begins at 11.30am with a focus on big fish and how the zoo cares for some of the largest fish in its aquarium.
The coati isn’t a particularly well-known mammal but this hog-nosed member of the raccoon family gets its own slot at noon, when you can see the characteristically crafty coatis climbing the trees and crunching through their lunch.
As there are so many animals at London Zoo, clashes are inevitable so you’ll have to choose the coatis or the Sumatran tigers, who are the area of focus at midday. Thankfully, the tiger demonstration is repeated at 2.30pm for those who missed it.
Flying and jumping animals demonstrate their remarkable skills in the amphitheatre at 12.30pm, while you can come face-to-face with some incredible creepy crawlies at 1pm.
It’s feeding time for the llamas at 1.30pm, but if you’re not around for much longer, you should probably prioritise Penguin Beach Live, where you’ll be able to watch penguins feed as they dive, jump and swim in England’s largest penguin pool. The show is repeated at 4.30pm if you plan to stick around until then.
Meerkats and mongooses get their own talk at 2pm, while half an hour later, you can hear tales from the world of giant reptiles and amphibians.
If you fancy flying solo and creating your own trail, you’ll be able to see otters, Galapagos tortoises, pygmy hippos, monkeys, lemurs, gorillas, spiders, giraffes, snakes and many more.
Outside of its usual programme, ZSL London Zoo gives visitors the chance to interact with the animals. For a fee, you can meet and feed the animals, be a keeper for a day or spend the night sleeping within roaring distance of Asiatic lions at the Fir Lion Lodge.
There are also special events set to be held throughout 2017. The zoo will celebrate 35 years of Rod Campbell’s beloved childrens’ book Dear Zoo with an exclusive experience between April 1st and 17th. For no extra cost, kids of all ages can embark on an interactive trail of the zoo, collecting stamps, exploring the storytelling hub and learning more about the real life animals from the books.
Over the first weekend of May (6th and 7th), the zoo extends its welcome to children with special needs and their families and friends with Special Children’s Day.
This means that specialist facilities and staff members are increased, while free special interactive events are held and discounted entry is made available. The organisers say that Special Children’s Day is “an exciting and exceptional event not to be missed”.
Wednesday May 17th focuses on the current level of poaching, which could result in future generations growing up without rhino, shark and tiger, with the Safari In The City event. This VIP event will give guests the chance to take a tour around ZSL London Zoo after hours, while savouring cocktails and canapés by twilight and hearing from the zoo’s conservation experts, before feasting on an African safari-themed dinner.
The more adult-orientated Streak for Tigers event (Thursday August 10th) sees 300 fearless fundraisers strip off and run naked through the heart of London Zoo. Held out of the zoo’s regular opening hours, the event asks participants to pledge at least £150 with the aim of raising more than £40,000 to support the zoo’s tiger conservation work.
Similarly, there’s also the ZSL London Zoo Stampede. In 2016, this saw more than 2,000 people take part in a 5k and 10k race through the zoo, raising more than £80,000 to help ZSL London Zoo care for and conserve some of the most wonderful and endangered animals across the world.
The Stampede is being held twice in 2017, first on Sunday March 26th then on Sunday September 17th. Places are limited to 1,000 and participants are required to pay a registration fee and pledge at least £50.
On Thursday November 9th, there’s the ZSL Fire Walk, where participants will be challenged to face their fears by literally walking across a path of fire.