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.ukPICTURES: ZSL London Zoo.


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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.

PICTURES: The former Fish House (Courtesy ZSL London Zoo/© ZSL London Zoo).

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

Humans might be struggling to stay warm as the ‘Beast from the East’ hits the city but at ZSL London Zoo, the penguins are feeling very much at home. PICTURE: © ZSL London Zoo

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.

Spread-your-wings• 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.

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HeidiA new pop-up shop has appeared in iconic Carnaby Street as part of a campaign aimed at helping to save endangered Asian lions, like Heidi, pictured above.

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.

For more, on the campaign, see www.zsl.org/support-us/lions400. For more on Carnaby Street, see www.carnaby.co.uk.

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