Squirrel monkeys, Sumatran tigers and Humboldt penguins were among the animals that had their statistics recorded at ZSL London Zoo’s 2022 annual weigh-in last week. With more than 14,000 animals in their care, ZSL London Zoo’s keepers spend hours throughout the year recording the up-to-date heights and weights of all the animals – information which helps them to monitor their health and wellbeing. The data is added to the Zoological Information Management System, a database shared with zoos all over the world that helps zookeepers to compare important information on thousands of endangered species. “We record the vital statistics of every animal at the Zoo, from the tallest giraffe to the tiniest snail,” says Daniel Simmonds, deputy animal manager. “This helps to ensure that every animal we care for is healthy, eating well, and growing at the rate they should, as weight is a key indicator of health and wellbeing – a growing waistline can also help us to detect and monitor pregnancies, which is important as many of the species at ZSL London Zoo are endangered and part of international conservation breeding programmes, including today’s Sumatran tigers and Vietnamese giant snails.” Three Sumatran tiger cubs which were born at the zoo in June will be weighed next month at their first health check – which takes place at the age of three months. For more, see www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.
Christmas came early for some of the residents at ZSL London Zoo this week. Asiatic lions Bhanu and Arya discovered brightly wrapped boxes scented with seasonal spices in the Land of the Lions while in the Gorilla Kingdom, the zoo’s troop of Western lowland gorillas found gifts of their favourite festive vegetables. “Gorillas Alika, Gernot, Mjukuu and Effie are always keen to clean their plates of all the festive veg at Christmas – they loved digging into their presents to find juicy carrots and tasty Brussels sprouts,” said head zookeeper Dan Simmonds. “And while lioness Arya carefully picked up her gifts and carried them off to play with later, Bhanu opened his all at once, rolling around in the boxes to release his favourite seasonal scents – nutmeg and cinnamon.” The zoo is open every day apart from Christmas Day. For more, see www.zsl.org/london-zoo. PICTURES: ZSL London Zoo.
ZSL London Zoo launched its ‘Komodo Dragon Experience’ this month with McFly bassist, Dougie Poynter, getting hands-on in caring for the 13-year-old dragon Ganas. Poynter joined zookeeper Joe Capon behind the scenes at the Attenborough Komodo Dragon House and watched Capon demonstrate the 54 kilogram creature’s training routine. He then helped prepare its food before hiding the meat in holes and inside logs to allow Ganas, one of just 1,400 Komodo dragons left in the world, to use its remarkable sense of smell in obtaining its next meal. The Komodo Dragon Experience is only available twice a month. Admission charge applies. For books, head to zsl.org/the-komodo-dragon-experience.
Last week saw the annual weigh-in of animals at ZSL London Zoo and all creatures great and small took part – from the Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys (pictured above) to the giant Galapagos tortoises and the tiny midwife toads (both pictured below). With more than 20,000 animals in the care of the zoo, the keepers spend hours through the year recording the heights and weights of all the animals. It’s an important task – the information aids them in monitoring the health and wellbeing of all those in the zoo. “It helps to ensure that every animal we look after is healthy, eating well, and growing at the rate they should – weight is a particularly important indicator of health and wellbeing,” says the zoo’s animal manager Angela Ryan. “A growing waistline can also help us to detect and monitor pregnancies, which is so important as many of the species at ZSL London Zoo are threatened and part of international breeding programmes, including today’s Asiatic lions and big-headed turtles. By sharing information with other zoos and conservationists worldwide, we can all use this knowledge to better care for the species we’re striving to protect.” For more, see www.zsl.org.
• With books of condolence not available for the public to sign due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Royal Family has created a national Online Book of Condolence for those who wish to leave a message following the death of Prince Philip. The family have also asked that members of the public consider making a donation to a charity instead of leaving floral tributes in memory of the Duke. The ceremonial funeral, which is not open to the public, will be held on Saturday at 3pm in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. A national one minute of silence will observed at 3pm, as the funeral, commences.
• Meanwhile, among tributes to remember Prince Philip is an online gallery of images at the Imperial War Museum’s website. Access the gallery from the IWM’s collections here.
• ZSL London Zoo reopened to the public this week, three months after it closed its doors for the third national coronavirus-related lockdown. Visitor numbers are limited to ensure social distancing and visitors must pre-book. A one-way system is in place, with three prescribed routes ensuring guests remain socially-distanced while exploring. Indoor exhibits, including the Reptile House and Rainforest Life, will remain closed for now. For more, see www.zsl.org.
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• The V&A in South Kensington reopens its doors to visitors today in the first phase of a staged reopening strategy. All of the ground floor galleries are reopening including the Medieval & Renaissance Gallery, the Cast Courts, The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art and Fashion Gallery, as well as the Europe 1600–1815 galleries on lower ground floor. The first and second floor collection galleries including The William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery, Theatre & Performance Galleries, and the Photography Centre as well as the museum’s Paintings, Tapestries and Silver Galleries are all scheduled to open on 27th August as well as the exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, which had closed just two weeks into its run. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk. PICTURE: M.chohan (Public domain).
• Other recent and upcoming reopenings include: the Horniman Museum, the Foundling Museum, the National History Museum, The Queen’s House in Greenwich (Monday, 10th August) and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (exhibitions only; galleries coming later).
• ZSL London Zoo is calling for volunteers to help assist visitors as they make their way around the zoo via three new one-way trails. The move, which follows a successful fundraising effort fronted by Sir David Attenborough, is aimed especially at people still furloughed and students forced to cancel gap year travel plans. Those interested in volunteering are asked to commit to a minimum of half a day each fortnight. For more, see www.zsl.org/volunteering.
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• A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan has been removed from its position outside of the Museum of London Docklands. The Canal and River Trust removed the statue this week in recognition of the “wishes of the community”. The move had the support of the museum which is one of only three museums in the UK to address the history of the transatlantic slave trade. “The Museum of London recognises that the monument is part of the ongoing problematic regime of white-washing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity…” the museum said in a statement issued earlier in the week. “Now more than ever at a time when Black Lives Matter is calling for an end to public monuments honouring slave owners, we advocate for the statue of Robert Milligan to be removed on the grounds of its historical links to colonial violence and exploitation.” Milligan was a prominent British slave owner who, by the time of his death in 1809, owned 526 slaves and two sugar plantations in Jamaica. The statue, the work of Sir Richard Westmacott, was moved to a position outside the museum in West India Quay in 1997. Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm which will review landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – across the city of London with a view to improving diversity in the public realm.
• The City of London Corporation has launched a competition to redesign the Grade II-listed gardens at Finsbury Circus. The two-stage competition aims to identity creative and sustainable design ideas in a bid to return Finsbury Circus Gardens to being a multifunctional public space with a pavilion as well as a “sanctuary” within the Square Mile. The corporation is seeking a joint bid from an architect and a landscape architect to deliver a new design for the reinstatement of Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion. Some two-thirds of the Finsbury Circus Gardens, one of the oldest parks in the City, have been used by Crossrail for the past 10 years to provide access to a section of tunnel between Farringdon and Liverpool Street. The works required the removal of historic features like the bowling green and historic Grade II drinking fountain and these will now be reinstated into the new design. PICTURE: Looking across Finsbury Circus Gardens in 2006 (David Williams /licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0)
• Tickets for ZSL London Zoo have gone on sale ahead of its planned reopening next week. The zoo will reopen on Monday, 15th June, for the first time since its closure on Saturday, 21st March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo, which is offering pre-allocated, timed entry slots, limited to just 2,000 visitors a day, says its taken numerous measures to ensure the safety of visitors. For more, head to www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.
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Amid the many institutions which have closed their gates in London thanks to the COVID-19 crisis is one which has 18,000 live inhabitants to keep fed and cared for. ZSL London Zoo closed on 21st March for the first time since World War II but a core team including zookeepers, vets, security and grounds staff have remained on site to keep life as normal as possible for the animals within. Images released today show the zookeepers – some of whom are now living on site in the Zoo’s Lion Lodge guest accommodation – caring for the animals. The 200-year-old charity has launched a new fundraiser to support the care of the animals while it’s closed. Head to zsl.org/support-our-zoos. PICTURES: Top – Zookeepers feed the meerkats; Below – Keeper Martin Franklin cleans Penguin Beach; Far below – A Western lowland gorilla.
Christmas came early at ZSL London Zoo on Monday when animals woke to find their presents had been delivered. Among them was a new Christmas climbing frame decorated with edible gifts for the ever-popular Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys, turkey wings for Sumatran tiger Asim and hanging stockings stuffed with vegetable trimmings for the ring-tailed lemurs. “Just like children all over the country when they wake up on Christmas morning, Asim loved tearing into his brightly wrapped presents to get at the meaty snacks inside, while our squirrel monkeys and lemurs enjoyed finding the festive treats hidden in their stockings,” said Angela Ryan, the Zoo’s animal manager. The zoo is open every day with the exception of Christmas Day itself. For more, see www.zsl.org/London. ALL PICTURES: © ZSL London Zoo
Once one of the most famous residents of ZSL London Zoo, Winnie the Bear was brought to the city by a Canadian soldier – Lt Harry Colebourn – during World War I.
Colebourn, a member of the 34th Fort Garry Horse Regiment of Manitoba and the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, had purchased the black bear cub at White River, Ontario, for $20, on 24th August, 1914, from a hunter who had killed the cub’s mother.
Colebourn, who named the bear Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg, subsequently took the bear with him to England where his regiment, the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, was training on Salisbury Plain ahead of their deployment to France.
The female bear became the mascot’s regiment but when the regiment left for France in December, 1914, she was left at the London Zoo in Regent’s Park for safekeeping.
Colebourn was a frequent visitor during leave from the front – he had initially intended to take Winnie back to Canada at the end of the war. But when the war ended in 1918, Colebourn instead donated the bear to the zoo in appreciation of the care staff had given her.
Among those who came to see the bear at the zoo were writer AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin – Milne subsequently named his famous fictional creation Winnie-the-Pooh after the bear.
Winnie the bear died at the zoo on 12th May, 1934.
There’s a statue of Lt Colebourn and Winnie at the zoo (pictured). The work of Bill Epp, it was presented to the zoo by the people of Manitoba, Canada, on 19th July, 1995. It’s a copy of an original Epp work which was unveiled in Assiniboine Park Zoo, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 6th August, 1992.
Pete, a maidenhair fern who lives at ZSL London Zoo, is preparing to take the world’s first plant selfie. Under the pioneering project taking place in the zoo’s Rainforest Life exhibit, microbial fuel cells – which harness the energy of naturally occurring bacteria in soil to generate electricity – will be used to power the plant to take its own picture. The fuel cells were designed by green energy specialists Plant E in the Netherlands and were created after ZSL’s Conservation Tech Unit, in partnership with Open Plant, Cambridge University and the Arribada Initiative, last year launched a competition to design a fuel cell that could be powered by plants. The new technology, which works around the clock, has the potential to allow researchers to monitor inhospitable and remote rainforest locations and record key data such as temperature, humidity, plant growth – all of which are crucial to the understanding of threats such as climate change and habitat loss. Zoo staff are asking people and come and cheer Pete on as he prepares to take his selfie with the actual event not expected for a few weeks. For more, see zsl.org. PICTURES: © ZSL London Zoo.
ZSL London Zoo recently experienced its first “snow day” for 2019. Pictured are Kiri the Kune Kune pig (above) and (below), Humboldt penguins and Asian short-clawed otters. Fun, apparently, was had by all! For more, see www.zsl.org. ALL PICTURES: © ZSL London Zoo.
Christmas has arrived at ZSL London Zoo with a series of light sculptures illuminating a mile long festive trail. More than a million pea lights have been used in the first show of its kind at the zoo which taking a month to build, features 200 visual displays including a pair of giant golden giraffes (above), an 11 metre tall Christmas tree made of recycled Christmas sledges (below) and two illuminated flying flamingoes (below). Historic zoo buildings have been lit up as well, including the Grade I-listed Penguin Pool and the historic Mapping Terraces. The trail, which circles the zoo’s 36 acre site so as not to wake up the sleeping animals, has been created in partnership with Raymond Gubbay Limited and designed by Culture Creative. It can seen on selected nights until 1st January. Admission charge applies. For dates and times, see christmasatlondonzoo.co.uk. PICTURES: ZSL London Zoo.
The ‘Fish House’ at ZSL London Zoo in The Regent’s Park opened to the public in May, 1853, and featured large plate glass tanks through which visitors could see life under the water.
Claimed to be not just London’s but the world’s first aquarium, it owed its origins to the development of techniques which enabled sea life to be kept in a tank, including the realisation that plants could rebalance the water’s make-up by dealing with the carbolic acid produced by fish when they absorbed oxygen from the water.
The council of Zoological Society of London had agreed on 18th February, 1852, to build the facility, initially described as an ‘Aquatic Vivarium’ (the original term used to describe a fish tank). But it was soon after it was opened that renowned Victorian marine biologist Philip Henry Gosse first coined the term ‘aquarium’, a truncation of the phrase.
Some of the first specimens exhibited in the Fish House – described as “a small collection of the Zoophytes and Annelides” – were actually brought by Gosse from Ilfracombe to London and became the “nucleus” of a collection which, when it was opened, included some 300 marine species.
Increasing demand to see underwater life saw the current three-halled Aquarium built on a different site – under the Mappin Terraces – in 1921. It was opened by King George V and his wife Queen Mary in April 1924.
Water for the saltwater section was apparently originally taken from the Bay of Biscay and delivered on barges via Regent’s Canal to the zoo. The barges were later replaced with road tankers which brought the water from the North Sea.
Species in the Aquarium these days include the tomato clownfish, the red piranha, Banggai cardinal fish, seahorses and the Amazon giant river turtle.
WHERE: The Aquarium, ZSL London Zoo, Regent’s Park (nearest Tube stations are Camden Town and Regent’s Park); WHEN: (Zoo entry) 10am to 5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm) everyday until 19th October; COST: Various (check the website for details); WEBSITE: www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/exhibits/aquarium.
Today – 5th June – is World Environment Day and to mark that, we thought it a good moment to mention ZSL London Zoo’s 16 foot high installation highlighting the issue of plastic pollution. The work of London-based artist and architect Nick Wood, Space of Waste is made of 15,000 plastic bottles – the number of single use bottles sold every minute in the UK – retrieved from across London, including out of the Thames. The installation houses information about the problem of plastic pollution and the small steps we can all take to tackle it. The installation follows a move by ZSL to stop using disposable plastic bottles at London Zoo in 2016 as part of the #OneLess campaign. For more, see www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo. For more on the #OneLess campaign, see www.onelessbottle.org. Top – ZSL’s Fiona Llewellyn ZSL’s places last bottle on Space of Waste; Below – The finished installation. PICTURES: David Parry/PAWire
ZSL London Zoo opened the gates to its new Zoorassic Park last weekend enabling families to step back in time to the Mesozoic era and experience life with the dinosaurs. Featuring life-size, moving dinosaurs ranging from a tyrannosaurus rex (above) to a triceratops (below), the exhibit, will provide insight into the lives of the extinct giants as well as the important work conservationists are doing now to help save today’s animals from the same fate Included in the price of entry into the zoo, the exhibit is only open until 3rd September. For more, see www.zsl.org. PICTURES: ZSL London Zoo.
• A “ground-breaking” hands-on exhibition exploring the concept and future of flight and space travel opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich this week. Above and Beyond, produced by Evergreen Exhibitions in association with Boeing (and created in collaboration with NASA), features more than 10 interactive displays, allowing visitors to learn to fly like a bird, take an elevator to space, enjoy a view of Earth from above or go on a marathon mission to Mars and see how your body would cope. Runs until 29th August. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/above-and-beyond-exhibition.
• Horrible Histories is bringing the world of the ‘Terrible Tudors’ to life at Hampton Court Palace this half-term break. The Birmingham Stage Company is offering the chance for visitors to dip into 100 years of Tudor history, spanning the reigns of the “horrible” Henries to that of the crowning of King James I in 1603. Get behind the dry facts and discover what the role of the Groom of the Stool was, which queen lost her wig as she was executed and decide whether to join in punishing the ‘whipping boy’ or the monarch and which side you’ll be on as the Spanish Armada set sail. The hour long performances will take place on the palace’s historic East Front Gardens (unreserved seating on the grass). Admission charge applies. Runs from today until 2nd June. For more see, www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/.
• The Royal Parks is hosting its first ever BioBlitz at Brompton Cemetery this Bank Holiday weekend. For 24 for hours from 5pm on Friday, people are invited to join in the hunt to track down as many species of plants, animals and fungi as possible with events including tree and nature walks, earthworm hunts, bee and wasp counts and lichen recording. There will also be a range of stalls for people to visit with representatives from a range of nature and wildlife organisations present. The BioBlitz is one of several projects linked to the £6.2 million National Lottery-funded facelift of the cemetery. For more, head to www.royalparks.org.uk/events/whats-on/bioblitz.
• Sleep with the lions at ZSL London Zoo next to Regent’s Park from this week. The zoo new overnight experience at the Gir Lion Lodge, in which guests can stay in one of nine cabins at the heart of the new Land of the Lions exhibit, opened on Wednesday. Guests will also be taken on exclusive evening and morning tours in which they’ll find out more about how ZSL is working with local communities and rangers in India’s Gir Forest to protect these endangered cats. The private lodges will be available six nights a week until December with designated adults-only and family nights available. For more, see www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/gir-lion-lodge.
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Female infant gorilla Alika, who celebrated her first birthday at ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park last week, is pictured getting to know her two week old baby brother, Gernot. Named after the partner of a generous donor who has supported the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) international work for wildlife, Gernot (below, top) was born to 22-year-old female Effie and 17-year-old silverback Kumbuka on 25th November, both Western lowland gorillas, and can most often be found tightly snuggled in Effie’s arms (below, bottom). Gorilla keeper Glynn Hennessy said while Gernot had become the “centre of attention” at the zoo’s Gorilla Kingdom, “one-year-old Alika has embraced her new role of the doting big sister”. “Western lowland gorillas live in troops and learn how to act from observing each other’s behaviours and manners and here we can see Alika demonstrating some of the nurturing skills she’s learned from the adults.” This has included touching his head and stroking his face as he sleeps in his mother’s arms. For more, see www.zsl.org. PICTURES: ZSL London Zoo.
The initiative, supported by ZSL London Zoo and Carnaby, aims to help raise £5.7 million in funds for the Zoological Society of London’s Lions400 campaign through the sale of specially designed products.
There are only some 400 Asian lions left in the wild, living in the isolated Gir Forest in Western Gujarat, India, and vulnerable to threats including disease, disaster, poaching and a growing human population.
The funds raised in the campaign will be used to build a state-of-the-art lion breeding centre and visitor experience at the zoo – where about a million people a year come into contact with the Asian lions including Heidi – as well as being used to extend conservation work in the field.
Among the items for sale in the shop at 15 Carnaby Street (pictured below) are T-shirts, bone china pieces, notebooks and badges created by fashion designer Elizabeth Emanuel and based on her lion sketch drawings as well as animal print notebooks and cards created by pop artist Rose Hill.
As well as selling products, the shop – which is only open for six weeks – is also hosting a series of free events. On Thursday, 19th June, Phd student Simon Dures will talk about African lions and their genetics at 1pm, 1,30pm, 6pm and 6.30pm. On 3rd July, Joanna Barker, the UK and Europe Conservation Programme coordinator will talking about marine mammal conservation in the Thames Estuary at similar times and, on 17th July, Nisha Owen, EDGE Conservation Biologist will talk about EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) species.