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ZSL London Zoo London Zoo Walkthrough/Review

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Kalaw, 4 Sep 2022.

  1. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    South London, England
    This is an exhibit-by-exhibit walkthrough account of ZSL London Zoo, my home zoo. It will not be in as much detail as, say, my Burgers' review, as this is a collection with which I am extremely familiar and I will not need to waste time on first impressions. It will also be arranged by exhibits, following my preferred route around the zoo.

    Birds of Prey Aviaries: Designed in 1863 by Anthony Salvin Jnr., this exhibit was opened as the Eastern Aviary and often praised at the time as the wire was positioned in such a manner that it looked invisible in the sunlight. Such a practice is fairly common in zoos these days, but in the late 19th Century it was considered fairly innovative. In 1989, it was reconstructed to provide more spacious habitats for the birds, although the now offshow indoors remained untouched. The renovations tried to maintain the architectural characteristics that made the Eastern Aviary so iconic; the hooped steel framing and the invisible wire. The result is a row of four pleasant, if a little simple, aviaries for birds of prey, two of which have been combined yet again to offer yet more space. The inhabitants? The largest of the three is home to Waldrapp (Geronticus eremita), while the other two house African Harrier Hawk (Polyboroides typus) and Asian Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus episcopus). So perhaps the title of 'Birds of Prey Aviaries' is a little misleading, although the species selection is still fairly nice. The woolly-necked storks are the only ones in the UK, while the harrier can only be found at a total of nine European collections. Enclosure-wise, they are fine, but the harriers feel as though they could do with a bigger and/or more enriching aviary; these massive raptors spend much of their day flying aimlessly from one wall to another.

    Giants of the Galapagos: In 2018, when the UK's only adult male Galapagos Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis niger) departed London Zoo and was sent to Crocodiles of the World, it was decided that the zoo's remaining three females should be provided a better home. In October 2021, such a home was provided in the form of Giants of the Galapagos. This greenhouse is truly fantastic for them, with several pools, mud wallows, heated lamps and bushes creating an absolute tortoise paradise. Just like all greenhouses, it could easily be improved with the addition of some free-flying birds, but purely looking at it as a giant tortoise enclosure, this is about as good as it gets.

    Penguin Beach: One of London's most impressive habitats is that for Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti). The land area offers a variety of substrates and plenty of shade through impressive and mature oak trees, while the pool is crystal-clear and can be viewed from both a main panel and a bubble window. However, the most impressive thing about this habitat is the sheer size of it; at around 1,500 square metres it is the UK's second largest penguin enclosure behind Edinburgh Zoo and one of the largest in Europe. A nice but often overlooked detail is the 1869 Parrot House, which was abolished to make room for more modern aviaries, but in an attempt to honour history, the archway entrance was moved and placed by the penguins.

    Macaw Aviaries: On the topic of parrots, the more modern replacement aviaries are just a short walk from the penguins. They are pretty standard aviaries, housing a pretty standard selection of species: Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), Green-winged Macaw (Ara chloropterus) and Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis). There honestly isn't much more to say about them.

    Butterfly Paradise: A fairly standard inflatable butterfly house which I sadly do not have a species list for.

    Three Island Pond: This artificial pond was designed by Decimus Burton, a highly regarded architect who had already done a lot of work around the Regent's Park area, in 1832. Since then, it has managed to go essentially unchanged, barring changes to the vegetation, viewing areas and, of course, the species selection. The pond currently houses Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) and Great White Pelican (Pelicanus onocrotalus). Most recently, in 2016, part of the enclosure was fenced off to house a female Reeve's Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi). The enclosure is nice, and its age is impressive, but it is nothing spectacular.

    Land of the Lions: This 2016 renovation of the historic Lion Terraces was the most expensive and controversial exhibit in the zoo's history. The controversy is mainly surrounding the fact that London, a 14.5 hectare zoo in a royal park with no room for expansion and 13 listed buildings that they are not allowed to destroy or substantially modify, is rather short on space, and that Land of the Lions took an enormous swathe of space (0.75 hectares) and gave it to just five species. Then there is also the matter of the excessive cultural theming, which sort of distracts from the animals and seems very out of place in such a historic and architecturally tasteful zoo. What about the quality of enclosures?

    Well, the centrepiece Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) enclosure *is* spectacular. Tremendous in size, gorgeously landscaped, very well-planted and full of enrichment. The enclosure can be viewed from multiple levels, through mesh, through clear floor-to-ceiling glass and from over a moat. It is hard to deny that this is one of the best lion enclosures in the country, but what about the other four species? Two of them, the Common Black Kite (Milvus migrans migrans) and Ruppel's Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) live in a fairly nicely designed aviary. It is perfect for the kites, but is a bit on the small side for 2.2 vultures. There is a Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula) enclosure that is about as standard as it gets, and an aesthetically dull, although certainly functional and quite spacious enclosure for the UK's only Hanuman Langur (Semnopithecus entellus). Overall, Land of the Lions is a mix of great and average, with nothing truly terrible. However one may lean towards the 'average' side in their overall thoughts of the exhibit due to just how much space, money and character was lost here.

    Tiny Giants: Despite its ridiculous new name, this invertebrate house is among the best exhibits that London Zoo has to offer, and may well be the greatest invertebrate house in Europe (better- travelled members could perhaps confirm that suspicion!). So what is so great about 'Tiny Giants'? To start by stating the obvious, its huge; covering over 1,000 square metres and housing over 100 species, it may well be Europe's largest invertebrate house as well by both of those metrics. Additionally, it is scientifically important; the laboratories in the centre of the building are crucial for the research of several invertebrates, which helps the zoo with its in-situ conservation and captive breeding programmes. And, according to the zoo's website: "The building is environmentally friendly, constructed from materials requiring little energy to produce. It generates most of its heat from the exhibits, the sun through the large areas of glass and the body heat of the visitors. It is cooled by air circulation and geo-cooling from pipes 40 metres below the ground."

    What really makes this exhibit so special, however, is that it isn't just a boring row of terrariums stretching across 1,000 square metres. From Europe's only spider walkthrough to a diving beetle tank with a magnifying glass attached, the exhibit does everything it can to ensure that visitors find invertebrates exciting, and it worked! Speaking personally, invertebrates are always my lowest priority when visiting zoos (birds are my top priority, followed by mammals, then amphibians, then reptiles, then fish, with invertebrates in last place), but they are usually my second priority when visiting London, as there is always something new to see at this world-class exhibit. So what species are housed in the invertebrate house? Well, baring in mind that it may change quite a bit and thus may not be entirely accurate in the near future, this is the list from my visit:

    Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes)
    American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
    Giant Dead Leaf Mantis (Deroplatys desiccata)
    Golden-eyed Stick Insect (Peruphasma schultei)
    Giant African Land Snail (Achatina achatina)
    Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata)
    Giant Walkingstick (Tirachoidea jianfenglingensis)
    Magnificent Flower Beetle (Mecynorrhina polyphemus)
    Golden Weaver Ant (Polyrhachis dives)
    Mombassan Train Millipede (Epibolus pulchripes)
    Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina oblongonota)
    Two-spotted Assassin Bug (Platymeris biguttata)
    Giant Katydid (Stilpnochlora couloniana)
    Question Mark Cockroach (Therea olegrandjeani)
    Jewel Wasp (Ampulex compressa)
    Leaf Insect (Phyllium philippinicum)
    Cave Cricket (Phaeophilacris bredoides)
    Giant Asian Praying Mantis (Hierodula membranacea)
    Macleay's Spectre Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)
    Golden Apple Snail (Pomacea canaliculata)
    Sunburst Diving Beetle (Thermonectus marmoratus)
    Upside-down Jellyfish (Cassiopeia sp.)
    Garden Fruit Chafer (Pachnoda sinuata)
    Flower Beetle (Eudicella sp.)
    African Giant Mosquito (Toxorhynchites brevipalpis)
    Biting Midge (Culicoides nubeculosus)
    Vietnamese Magnolia Snail (Bertia cambojiensis)
    Domestic Silkworm (Bombyx mori)
    Blue Bottle Fly (Calliphora vomitoria)
    Fregate Island Palm Beetle (Polposipus herculeanus)
    Red Devil Vampire Crab (Geosesarma hagen)
    Long-bodied Cellar Spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
    Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica)
    Curly-haired Spider (Brachypelma albopilosum)
    Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus imperator)
    Giant Banded Tailless Whip-Scorpion (Damon diadema)
    Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda venatoria)
    Brazilian Salmon Pink Bird-eating Spider (Lasiodora parahybana)
    Black Velvet Spider (Gandanameno sp.)
    Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes plantarius)

    The above species list is *not* all the species housed in Tiny Giants. When the zoo's aquarium closed, a coral reef tank was opened within Tiny Giants, which for a number of reasons, I do not have a species list for. Additionally, there are several windows into the 'offshow' laboratories, which I do not have a list of, but I do know that one of those rooms houses an impressive 9 species of Partula Snail. Finally, there is Europe's only spider walkthrough, which is my personal highlight of the building. It houses Golden Orb Web Spider (Nephila inaurata madagascariensis) and Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Nephila edulis).

    Meet the Monkeys: An incredibly standard walkthrough for Bolivian Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis). Since, for unknown reasons, this walkthrough was transformed into a dead end, meaning that you must enormously backtrack to get to the next exhibit once you visit it, I have stopped visiting it. Its an incredibly dull and standard enclosure; not bad, but unless you want a sense of completeness while visiting London Zoo, I would say that you don't need to visit it.

    Blackburn Pavilion: Without doubt my favourite area of London Zoo, the Blackburn Pavilion is a Victorian structure that opened as the zoo's reptile house, but has been converted into the UK's greatest bird house. Its charm stems from the fact that, with a couple exceptions, all of the aviaries in the main hall are surrounded by wire, allowing for the diverse calls of tropical birds to echo across a rather old brick structure that has existed at the zoo since 1882. The two walkthrough habitats are often overlooked by visitors, but have a few rarities. As such, I often spend hours of my visits in this building alone, trying to spot all the birds and see some exciting activity. The main walkthrough houses the following:

    Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis)
    Pekin Robin (Leiothrix lutea)
    Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
    Goldie's Lorikeet (Glossoptilus goldiei)
    Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora)
    Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni)
    Crested Wood Partridge (Rollulus rouloul)
    Brazilian Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo bresilius)
    Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias)
    Ultramarine Grosbeak (Cyanoloxia brissonii)
    Southern Red Bishop (Euplectes orix)
    Blue-crowned Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus courtoisi)
    Red-and-yellow Barbet (Trachyphonus erythrocephalus)
    Hartlaub's Turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi)
    Collared Hill-partridge (Arborophila gingica)
    Hottentot Teal (Spatula hottentota)
    Bali Starling (Leucopsar rothschildi)
    Chestnut-backed Thrush (Geokichla dohertyi)
    Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)
    Mindanao Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba crinigera)
    Amethyst Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)
    Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria)

    A mostly standard selection by European standards, but there are several species in the above list that are UK rarities. The two highlights are Ultramarine Grosbeak, housed only at 8 other European zoos, with London displaying 1.1, and of course Scarlet-chested Sunbird, the only ones in Europe, with London housing 1.1 in the main walkthrough and 0.1 in an adjacent side-aviary. A side-aviary within this walkthrough houses Montserrat Oriole (Icterus oberi). The smaller walkthrough houses:

    Black-naped Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus melanospilus)
    Splendid Sunbird (Cinnyris coccinigastrus)
    more Chestnut-backed Thrush (Geokichla dohertyi)
    Red-cowled Cardinal (Paroaria dominicana)
    Spotted Laughingthrush (Ianthocincla ocellata)
    Emerald Starling (Lamprotornis iris)
    Forbes Parrot-finch (Erythrura tricolor)
    Collared Trogon (Trogon collaris)

    Despite having a smaller selection of species, I would argue that it is of more interest to the zoo-goer. Highlights include Forbes Parrot-finch and Red-cowled Cardinal, but the two main rarities are Collared Trogon (2.0, found at only 3 other European collections) and Splendid Sunbird (0.2, found at no other European collection). Luckily, those latter two species are among the most active birds in the entire building. The other aviaries within the building house:

    Purple-naped Lory (Lorius domicella)
    more Brazilian Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo bresilius)
    Sumatran Laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor)
    more Black-naped Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus melanospilus)
    more Mindanao Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba crinigera)
    Silver-eared Mesia (Leiothrix argentauris)
    more Amethyst Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)
    Orange-headed Ground-thrush (Geokichla citrina melli)
    more Chestnut-backed Thrush (Geokichla dohertyi)

    Not the most interesting selection to say the least. The lories are somewhat a rarity, while the mesia are extremely rare elsewhere, but are certainly very common in the UK. As for the outdoor aviaries:

    Wrinkled Hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus corrugatus)

    more Blue-crowned Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus courtoisi)
    White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus)

    Mountain Peacock-pheasant (Polyplectron inopinatum)
    more Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora)

    more Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni)
    more Blue-crowned Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus courtoisi)

    Southern Sulawesi Hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus exarhatus sanfordi)

    Purple Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis purpureus)
    Red-crested Turaco (Tauraco erythrolophus)
    Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)
    White-crowned Robin-chat (Cossypha albicapillus)

    Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina)

    Pink Pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri)
    Emei Shan Liocichla (Liocichla omeiensis)
    Edward's Pheasant (Lophura edwardsi)
    more White-crowned Robin-chat (Cossypha albicapillus)

    more Mindanao Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba crinigera)
    more Sumatran Laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor)

    Mitchell's Lorikeet (Trichoglossus forsteni mitchellii)

    Highlights in the above list include Javan Green Magpie (0.1) and Sulawesi Hornbill (1.0 allegedly, but recently a second hornbill has arrived and I am not sure of the gender).

    Although I am extremely fond of the Blackburn Pavilion, there *are* 3 minor flaws. The first of these is that the wire can be a problem for photographers, especially in the case of the outdoor aviaries where you are separated from the birds by a bush as well. This doesn't usually affect me, as I am not a zoo photographer, but on those few days when I am committed to photography, it is always a major inconvenience. Naturally, this isn't an issue in the walkthroughs. Secondly, there is a lot of repetition across the building in terms of species. This has been a growing problem in recent times, but over the past year or so, more exciting species are being brought into the zoo and it is becoming less of an urgent issue. Finally, there is the signage font. The 2008 renovation of this building which made it the fantastic bird house of today tried to honour its Victorian background via several architectural changes. Some of these (most of them, in fact) worked amazingly, like the checkerboard floor of the main hall, the glass case comparing the size of different bird eggs, and above all the bird clock in front of the structure that springs to life every half-an-hour. Others were less successful, such as the font on the signage in which the Latin names is written. I get why that font was used, but it is not legible and can be a slight inconvenience.

    Animal Adventure: The zoo's children's playground and water play area does have a few animal exhibits attached, although none of them are remotely interesting. They are merely standard and unimaginative enclosures for South American Coati (Nasua nasua), Meerkat (Suricata suricatta) and Cape Porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis). Another very basic area of the zoo that I don't really have all that much to say about.

    Ambika Paul Children's Zoo: Ambika Paul, a young girl who loved visiting London Zoo, sadly died to cancer, and her parents gaven £1,000,000 to the zoo so that a children's zoo could be constructed in her name. When it first opened in the sixties, a few species of deer and even a room for nocturnal primates ('the Bushbaby Hall') made it of interest. Nowadays, what hasn't been transformed into playgrounds for Animal Adventure is essentially just a zone for domestics.

    Tiger Territory: Another one of the zoo's most popular exhibits, this complex centres around two interconnected enclosures for Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), which is spectacular. It is fully netted to allow for additional climbing; quite an impressive claim when one considers how massive the combined area of the two enclosures is. The planting is extremely convincing and the multi-level viewing is a majo convenience; even the onshow indoor area here is better than most. Yet another spectacular big cat enclosure at London Zoo. From the upper boardwalk viewing, one can also find the zoo's Northern White-cheeked Gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) enclosure, which is fairly standard, but by virtue of being fully enclosed does allow for plenty of brachiation.

    Visible from the lower portion of Tiger Territory are the Casson paddocks. These are fairly nice enclosures that were originally built for elephants and rhinos, and were responsible for much welfare-related backlash over the years. However, by downsizing the inhabitants, these have actually become above average enclosures for a selection of other ungulates, currently two species of pig. Where rhinos were once found there are new Red River Hog (Potamochoerus porcus), but far more exciting is the former elephant enclosure now for hybrid Babirusa (Babyrousa). It is a shame that they are hybrids, but the species is nonetheless something of a rarity, and it is the enclosure that is so good. Benefitting from the fact that Babirusa don't dig, but do wallow, London has been able to create a spacious lawn for them with a few wallows and the old elephant pool, now mostly drained to prevent drowning. Although the Cassons are nice, they would be nicer if you were allowed into the huge centrepiece pavilion, built in an aggressive post-war brutalist style and a massive waste of space if it will continue to go unused. Additionally, I enjoyed them far more back in 2019, when they were home to the country's last Bearded Pigs.

    Outback: The surface of the world-famous Mappin Terraces (artificial cliff faces that date back to 1914) has housed many species over the years, most famously mountain goats and bears. So what is it used for now? Bennet's Wallaby (Notamacropus rufogriseus) and Common Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). The front of the Mappins do suit the inhabitants very well, but I cannot help but feel like this is an enormous waste of potential; considering this enclosure's history and size, devoting it to perhaps the most basic and numerous mixed-species selection of them all just doesn't feel right.

    Bird Safari: This pleasant, if a little simple, walkthrough aviary has done a great job at making use of the North side of the old Stork and Ostrich House. The indoors (offshow) needed no improvement whatsoever, allowing the zoo to focus on making the outdoors more aesthetically pleasing; it certainly worked, and there are huge numbers of birds to make it even more exciting. The easiest species to spot in this enclosure are the Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii) and African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) which spend most of their day perched above the entrance to the walkthrough. Sometimes, stray ibis and stork can be found in the trees, often nesting, and often accompanied by the Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber). Around the centrepiece pond, you can find Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), and often Common Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) are lurking nearby. I have never managed to spot the Edward's Pheasants here, although I have seen the ones at the Blackburn Pavilion.

    Gorilla Kingdom: When the old Sobbell Pavilions were deemed outdated, two disjointed portions of them were maintained for monkeys, while a more modern extension was constructed to allow the zoo to continue housing one species of great ape, the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Sadly, since Gorilla Kingdom has opened, London has really struggled to maintain an actual group of gorillas, and although I believe it may be improving, the apes still rarely venture outdoors; the indoors, while nice, is not enriching or spacious enough to make up for this fact. The gorilla enclosure at London is by no means bad, but it is not particularly great either. As for the aforementioned monkey enclosures left in the old Sobells. They are all built in a Howletts style; packed with enrichment and climbing, but with nothing of aesthetic interest. I am fine with that approach if it is spacious, which the zoo's Diana Monkey (Cercopithecus diana) enclosure is certainly not. On the other hand, the zoo's Sulawesi Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra) enclosure certainly is; it has always been the larger of the two, but since the colobus monkeys have moved elsewhere in the zoo, their enclosure has doubled in size. They also have the nicer indoor areas, with one of their rooms even having a heated stream in which they can play. White-naped Mangabey (Cercocebus atys lunulatus) probably have it best, however, as they have the largest individual enclosure and the most grass.

    In addition to all of this, Gorilla Kingdom has a small aviary housing birds of the Congo. Its role is essentially to build up to the gorillas by painting a vague picture of their natural home, obscuring the main enclosure with bushes and trees, so that when you leave the aviary and see the gorillas there is an element of anticipation. The aviary is the smallest of the zoo's walkthrough aviaries by quite a margin, but it is by no means bad. It houses Von der Decken's Hornbill (Tockus deckeni) and Violet Turaco (Musophaga violacea), as well as more Pink Pigeon and White-crowned Robin-chat.

    Into Africa: After crossing under the Outer Circle, you are greeted by my least favourite area of the zoo. Into Africa is a modern rebranding of the old Cotton Terraces, and it is very much London's ABC zone, housing hybrid giraffe, two subspecies (Burchell's Zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) and Chapman's Zebra (Equus quagga chapmani)) of zebra, Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), Natal Red Duiker (Cephalophus natalensis), Western Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis liberiensis), African Hunting Dog (Lycaon pictus) and Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus). The giraffe enclosure has been discussed in copious detail elsewhere, and I do not intend to repeat it, but I am firmly against the keeping of giraffes in this enclosure despite its historic value and the zoo's attempts to improve it by downsizing their group and sending their bull elsewhere. Similar things can be said about the zebra enclosure. The okapi habitat is nothing spectacular - a few, reasonably sized, shaded, grassy lawns with a small indoor area - although it does benefit from the fact that they share with Natal Red Duiker, Into Africa's only rarity. The warthog and hunting dog enclosures are a bit small, although nicely vegetated, and are let down by the fact that one of the hunting dog enclosures and the warthog habitat can only be seen from above, forcing you to look down on the animals. Honestly, the Pygmy Hippo enclosure is the only interesting habitat here.

    Monkey Valley: The Snowdon Aviary is one of the most iconic exhibits at London Zoo; everything from its fantastic use of tensegrity to its steep and varied setting to the sheer volume of it makes it truly unique. It was a fantastic aviary for a large selection of birds, until London made the decision to convert it into the zoo's fourth primate walkthrough. Obviously there was a mixed reception for this enclosure. Personally speaking, I do miss its time as a world-class aviary, but I also think it suits Kikuyu Colobus (Colobus guereza kikuyuensis) amazingly. Seeing the animals leap from climbing frame to climbing frame in this tremendously spacious exhibit is certainly one of the most unique experiences that the zoo has on offer.

    In with the Lemurs: The zoo's Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) walkthrough opened in 2015 and is somewhat cleverly designed in the sense that most of the lemur's climbing is positioned above the visitor pathway, encouraging them to walk above the visitors, and even though they are a fairly common zoo species the excitement among the average visitor is quite palpable. However for the lemurs it does feel like the width of the path and the narrowness of the enclosure (although it is very long and spacious overall) results in little privacy. In the Lemur House, you can find the indoors for the lemurs, but also that for Lac Alaotra Gentle Lemur (Hapalemur alaotrensis), who are among the most elusive species at the zoo and are very rarely seen. Even more exciting is what lies in a darkened corner of the lemur house; the zoo's breeding pair of Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)!

    Rainforest Life: In the same building (the Clore Pavilion) as the Lemur House is the zoo's rainforest house. Essentially, the centre of the Clore has been transformed into a barrierless, mixed-species habitat for rainforest species, while the surrounding enclosures continue that same theme. It is quite nice, but is considered by many to be a waste of space, considering just how many species were once found in the Clore. Even more sad is that the free-flying birds left, and since then the house has lost a lot of its charm. Currently, the mix houses:

    Golden-headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas)
    Coppery Titi Monkey (Plecturocebus cupreus)
    Goeldi's Monkey (Callimico goeldii)
    Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla)
    Linne's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus)
    Rodrigues Flying Fox (Pteropus rodricensis)
    Red-footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonarius)

    While the surrounding enclosures house Golden Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia), Round- eared Sengi (Macroscelides proboscideus), Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare), Red-faced Spider Monkey (Ateles paniscus) and the highlight of the exhibit, Narrow-striped Boky (Mungotictis decemlineata decemlineata). In the case of the spider monkeys, it is merely a view of their outdoor enclosure, with the indoors being off-display.

    Night Life: Even though about half of Night Life, the zoo's nocturnal house, is empty, wasted space that could be put to better use, what this enclosure does have is mostly very good. The reverse lighting is both visitor and animal friendly, most enclosures are spacious and well-planted compared to other nocturnal houses and the species selection is very choice. The obvious highlight is the Potto (Perodicticus potto), who share their enclosure with the zoo's female Malagasy Giant Jumping Rat (Hypogeomys antimena) and another rarity, the Moholi Galago (Galago moholi). Elsewhere in the building are Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec (Echinops telfairi), Naked Mole Rat (Heterocephalus glaber), Grey Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) and Pygmy Slow Loris (Xanthonycticebus pygmaeus). This indeed means that there are 3 species of loris at London.

    Happy Families: More meerkats, the outdoor enclosures for the Golden Lion Tamarins and a rather average Asian Short-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea) enclosure surround the historically and architecturally fascinating Tecton Roundhouse in an absurdly named zone of the zoo. On that note, you may travel through the East Tunnel and exit the zoo.

    In summary, it is fair to say that London is a shadow of its former self, and is full of imperfections and major flaws. But ZSL London Zoo is not a bad zoo. With the best invertebrate house, bird house and (hopefully) soon reptile house in the country, with several avian and reptilian rarities and some outstanding big cat enclosures, London is still a good zoo and a must-visit for any zoo-goer who finds themselves in the UK. That does not mean that it is a great zoo; a comparison between London and San Diego or Chester or Zoo Berlin is a one-sided and unfair one. However it is an injustice to the centuries of scientific research, rich history, iconic architecture and great collection if it is not high on the bucket list of every zoo-goer who hasn't visited, or at least I believe that to be the case. Of course I am slightly biassed, having grown up in London and with London Zoo being my childhood collection, instrumental in sparking my fascination with zoology, but I genuinely believe that it is still worth visiting, just not (any more) for quality alone.
     
    matzek, Osedax, Rajang-GOAT and 23 others like this.
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    This is a superb review. Thanks so much! :)
     
  3. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Thanks for your review @Kalaw. I feel that given the sad closure of Bristol Zoo yesterday the time for reflection has come. Though I have been highly critical of London Zoo on here and it still struggles to make the best 10 UK zoos, it will never again be the collection I grew up with in the 1970s, BUT thankfully it is still open and I hope it will remain so for another 2 centuries at least!
     
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  4. aquilla1

    aquilla1 Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Great review, very precise!
    It’s good to hear the bird collection is improving, hopefully the new reptile house will be great, just hope it will deliver even with the decrease in the number of reptile species, be good to see some purpose built space for amphibians! Just need an aquarium asap!
    The Eastern Aviary was where the remnants of the old bird of prey aviaries were housed after they were demolished (they were where the macaws are now), I remember a breeding pair of Bateleur Eagles, Hector the raven and his mate, a pair of white necked ravens, a pair of southern pied hornbills, a grasshopper buzzard, a savannah hawk, the original pair of African Harrier Hawks who started breeding in the late ‘80s, an Egyptian vulture and the whole place was completely infested with brown rats!
    When the new aviary was built I think the pair of lappet faced vultures came in from Whipsnade, the pair of Bateleurs and the African Harrier Hawks, later on an old pair of African Fish Eagles came in to replace the lappet faced vultures, London had apparently forgotten they still owned them, those were the days…
     
  5. Strix

    Strix Well-Known Member

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    Great review! I think I’m the same as you in regards to being biased towards London Zoo, I reckon on current quality it isn’t in the top 10 zoos of the country any more (which I have just seen @pipaluk agrees with me on). The history factor is still tangible when you visit the zoo if you look in the right places.
     
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  6. tennisfan

    tennisfan Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    perhaps on your next visit you might discover the Komodo Dragon exhibit
     
  7. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    Thank you so much!

    I think I would mostly agree with that. If the aquarium was still open, then my personal bias towards the place would be enough to push it comfortably into my UK top 10, maybe even a top 5, but now I am less sure. Hopefully the new Reptile House is a success, and I agree with @pipaluk that Bristol's closure has made some elements of London feel more unique and important.
    Thank you so much for sharing; that is really interesting, especially the fact that they forgot they owned African Fish Eagles?! :eek:
    Not quite sure how I forgot to write about that. I will write my description of that in the same post as the new reptile house.
     
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  8. Zorro

    Zorro Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Excellent Review. :)
     
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  9. equidae

    equidae Well-Known Member

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    Interesting review.

    I don't think the zebra exhibit is that bad, given the limitations of the location and the land. It does however need more varied enrichment. Haynets and feeders aren't enriching once the animal has gotten used to them, and don't encourage movement. The giraffe enclosure was at least 'updated' by adding lots of branches to scratch on and forage with, but the zebras seem to have been forgotten. I hope that the keepers do more than what I've witnessed.

    The Mappin Terraces do feel wasted currently, especially with space being at a premium. I'd love to see the zoo rotate enclosures - if I recall correctly, the camel and outback enclosures could be temporarily suitable for the zebras - to provide some more variety in their lives. However, I can't imagine that happening anytime soon.

    Ironically, if the zoo were to send the giraffes elsewhere, or even the gorillas, there'd likely be lots of complaints about the quality of the zoo decreasing.

    I will just add that, if you want to see the hunting dogs from below, I'd recommend walking along the canal as that gives you a good view. And, for those interested in the zoo's history, it's worth booking a time slot to go visit the library (currently open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
     
  10. Jambi

    Jambi Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed reading this review, great work @Kalaw! The last time I went to London Zoo was in 2008, but I plan on visiting there in 2023 because there are a lot of species there I want to add to my 2021-onwards Zoo Life List.
     
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  11. tennisfan

    tennisfan Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Some good detail , some inaccuracies , some Omissions and the suggestion that visitors should not bother with the Meet the monkeys riduculous.
     
  12. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Please explain all your comments! What are the inaccuracies, omissions? What is great about the Squirrel monkey walk through. Only interested because some of the things I hear praised for London, I don't rate very highly!
     
  13. tennisfan

    tennisfan Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    I have given my opinion and will leave it at that.
     
  14. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    Fair enough, I don't think your opinion is clear at all but we will just leave it
     
  15. Tetradactyla

    Tetradactyla Member

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    I've seen this point mentioned several times on here recently, and realized I may be able to shed some light on it (as I was working/volunteering at the zoo during the time this change was made).

    If memory serves, the original "bottom entrance" in Meet the Monkeys was originally closed due to either a malfunctioning door, or issues with the drainage which meant water was collecting on the visitor path along that lower stretch. (It may even have been both). During this time, it was discovered that the closure made the walkthrough much easier to manage from a staffing perspective, and also reduced the number of incidents where the monkeys had immediate access to people entering the exhibit with food or pushchairs, due to their habit of foraging in the foliage either directly facing, or right next to, that bottom set of doors.

    There had been several incidents where the monkeys had managed to take items which could have been hazardous to them, despite the pushchair ban, and discussions had been happening behind-the-scenes about avoiding a reoccurance of this - including placing a paid member of staff in the walkthrough throughout the whole day. The part-closure of Meet the Monkeys meant that it could be adequately managed by a single paid member of staff (the newly-created "keeper-steward" role), with volunteers providing support during busy periods.

    Prior to this closure (but after the infamous "pushchair ban"), there had been persistent rumors amongst staff that the zoo planned to create a new path outside the walkthrough which would have connected the Blackburn Pavilion to BUGS. I was never sure how much truth there was to that, however!

    (I actually somewhat agree that the part-closure of Meet the Monkeys was terrible from a visitor perspective. The walkthrough itself is fantastic and well worth experiencing - however, the amount of walking that's now involved to see Meet the Monkeys and BUGs and the Blackburn Pavilion is probably not attractive or even feasible to a lot of casual visitors. Add into this that Land of the Lions is something of a maze for those who aren't familiar with it, and it often means that the zoo's bird and invertebrate collection are, invariably, further overlooked due to the confusing layout of that entire area)
     
    Last edited: 6 Sep 2022
  16. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey In the Swamp Premium Member 5+ year member

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    Piggybacking onto this thread, I am heading to London next March and will be going to the zoo whilst there. I went back in the 1990's, so it has been a while. Honestly, about how much time should I budget for the zoo? I can spend up to a day, but looking at maps I feel that may be a bit long. I will be with my wife and 6 year old son, who enjoy zoos enough, but they are not zoo enthusiasts...
     
  17. Kalaw

    Kalaw Well-Known Member

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    It really depends on the following:

    a) how interested are you in rarities? A few of London's more interesting species (although they may well be more common in the USA), such as the Aye-Aye, Potto, Javan Green Magpie and Natal Red Duiker can be very difficult to see, requiring a lot of patience. Although even if you are short on time, the likes of Boky-boky, Hanuman Langur and both sunbird species are almost guaranteed sightings.

    b) are you willing to skip certain areas? If you are short on time, some areas really aren't of note and can be skipped. I already suggested Meet the Monkeys upthread (although I hear that the Bolivian Squirrel Monkey is a rarity in the USA, so this may still be of note), but there is also both the Ambika Paul Children's Zoo and Animal Adventure, which, barring the Mangalica Pigs, have almost nothing of note. Outback only has Emus and Bennett's Wallabies these days, but it is worth at least a brief look for the history of the Mappin Terraces. Similar things can be said about Happy Families, with Meerkats, ASCO and Chinese Water Deer, but there is the historic Tecton Roundhouse. Although of course, you may already be familiar with these buildings from your visit in the nineties.

    c) how fast do you go around zoos? As with any zoo, the answer to how long you should spend there comes almost entirely down to personal preference.

    Personally, I normally spend 5 hours at London, and would say that this is a good amount of time for most visitors, but it can easily be cut down to 3 or stretched out to 7 if wanted / necessary.

    Enjoy your visit!
     
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  18. SusScrofa

    SusScrofa Well-Known Member

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    I was in London this past July and I visited both London Zoo and the tower of London in the same day. I arrived at the zoo a few minutes before opening and I had pre purchased my tickets with one of London city passes so I had no need to wait in an ticket line. I think my visit was around 4 hours, maybe 5. I ate a quick lunch afterwards at a nearby kabab place before using the tube to get to the tower. It should be noted that I soloed the zoo visit. If you have any questions feel free to PM me :)
     
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  19. SwampDonkey

    SwampDonkey In the Swamp Premium Member 5+ year member

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    Thanks to you both! I think 5 hours should be decent enough for us. Can't skip the kids area, they are always a hit with my son, otherwise it sounds like that would have been a good idea. The monkey will be popular with my wife, so can't cut that one out either. That said, we don't really linger, so budgeting 5 hours should cover it and if we finish early we can always add in something else. We will be in London area about 7 days, so we can always bump some sights around.

    I'll PM you about it, @SusScrofa :)
     
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