London Zoo review
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Back to London Zoo today. I'm sitting here watching the giraffes getting fed at the moment. The zookeeper is walking around brushing all the leaves off the floor and the giraffes are dropping about a million more. He's a funny looking fella (the giraffe I mean, not the zookeeper). He's got two bony tufts coming out the top of his head and a neck that's longer than his legs. I think God must have been having an off-day when he came up with that. Or maybe he got his sheets of paper mixed up in the wind and couldn't be bothered to sort them out. And what's going on with the camouflaged skin? What is the point of trying to camouflage yourself when your neck is ten-feet long. Nobody is going to miss that sticking out the treetops.
The only thing I know about warthogs is from watching old Mafia movies. If you starve them for a month then you can chuck a human in and they will eat them whole -- bones included. It's a great way of getting rid of dead bodies apparently. They don't mention any of that on the placard though. Just some boring stuff about where they live.
Have you ever seen the Snowdon Aviary? It's a like a big bird cage for humans. Once you've shoved open the heavy blocking door and walked in through a curtain of chains you're in -- it's just you and two hundred ravenous birds. If they get vicious then you are basically doomed because you're in a big prison of wire mesh. Luckily it's just the friendly things in here though -- ducks and gulls and cranes. You're not going to come face-to-face with any eagles or vultures or anything like that. At least, I hope not -- I'm in here now! There are quite a few sparrows and pigeons in here too, so I guess they must have flown through the mesh and can't get out. Now that I've stopped and actually had some time to look around I've decided that some of the birds do actually look a bit dangerous with their long pointy bills just perfect for poking out my eyeballs, but I guess they must be safe. I give them a wide berth just in case (I don't want to get eaten alive in here). I've just seen some peacocks too -- very nice. They are the supermodels of the bird world. Way out of my league.
I'm having a good look around the whole zoo today and taking my time, and I've discovered a few places that I missed last time -- like the fruit bat room. It's a pretty spooky room all dark and quiet inside... expect for the sound of their little claws scrapping along the wire fence. You can watch them crawling along the branches, cheeping in the dark. Some of them are wrapping their wings around their skinny girths exactly like Dracula does when he's sleeping in his coffin. Creepy looking things! Some of them are hanging by the toes too, beady white eyes staring out of the glass. Cheeping, shrieking, inching their way across the wall. Let's get the hell out of here before they escape and suck my blood out.
I love the Rainforest block as well. As soon as you enter the room you are hit by the heat and a sheen of misty white water in the sky. And it's all open-plan too, so the monkeys and birds are walking freely around the path, along the banisters, and across the treetops stretched above your head. The place is filled with little tamarins and big ugly sloths. I would imagine that it would be quite painful to have a sloth drop on your head, but these guys only move at about 2mph so you've got plenty of time to see them coming. It is really hot in here but it's very well done. They've got rainforest plants and a carpet of ferns on the floor, and spindly little branches for the monkeys to sit on. Everywhere you look is a creature cheeping or scrabbling for some place to go. They don't sit still for a second (they won't pose for photos). Every now and then a warm cloud of spray will come drifting out the pipes in the sky to keep the atmosphere nice and wet. It gets quite oppressive after a while and I have to leave. I'm glad I'm not a monkey.
The Blackburn Pavilion is another walkthrough bird exhibit like the Snowdon Aviary, but this time filled with tropical birds of bright colours. I think the building is worth checking out just for the architecture. If Jules Verne had ever built an aviary, then this is what it would have looked like -- all red wrought iron and green steel, with sandy plaster walls and a waterfall inside.
Every time I come to the Mappin Terrace there's nothing there. It's a shame because it's the best looking paddock in the zoo. It's supposed to look like the Aussie Outback and it's got a towering range of orange rocks rising above the sandy plains. But all they've got on display is a few emus and kangaroos, most of whom are standing ten miles at the back where you can't see them. I think they need to train their animals a bit better, and get them to put on a show. Imagine if you bought yourself a new slave and he didn't do anything -- you wouldn't be very happy. You'd get yourself a brand-new slave. So that should be the deal -- no show, no peanuts. Perform for the humans or you'll be on the first boat back to Australia. There are plenty more kangaroos where you came from mate.
The Reptile House is another scary place filled with thick snakes and lizards. Patience pays off in here because to have to wait a while before they come out to play. Some of the snakes are thicker than a rubber tyre, all coiled up in a circle 3-feet wide. They could probably crush the life out of you in ten seconds flat and yet here they are, snoozing fast asleep, like butter wouldn't melt in its mouth -- but I am not fooled. If your idea of fun is looking at a bowl of live maggots, beetles, leeches, spiders, flies, cockroaches, wasps, and other creepy crawling crawlies, then you might like to check out the "Bugs!" exhibit too.
I think the Gorillas are my favourite animal. I was in there for a good 20 minutes today just watching them watch me. I have come to the conclusion that they are actually humans in disguise. Everything they do -- the expressions on their face, the way they sit, stand up, pick at their nails, scratch their face -- everything they do is exactly the same way that we would do it too. You can almost read his mind and share his thoughts by the expressions on his face. It looks like this guy has resigned himself to his fate. I am captured, he says. It's just a shame that he can't talk, because we'd have to let him out straight away. Even if it was only one word, like 'hello', we'd have to turf him out his cage and let him go. Can you imagine if all the monkeys started chanting "Get lost" at the punters every time they walked past? Or the toucans started tooting "Help!" every hour of the day. Zoos would go out of business in a flash. I've got a theory that monkeys don't actually like bananas. The reason they eat them all the time is because that's all we give them -- it's either that or starve. But the truth is that they are sick to the back teeth of eating bananas each and every day and that is why he is sitting staring at me right now. He is saying, please mate no more bananas for chrissakes. If I eat another banana I'm going to turn into one. Give me a bowl of Pedigree Chum of something, but not bananas.
Onto the tigers now, who have had a posh new enclosure built since the last time I came. It's certainly a lot bigger and more lush than the old one. It's got a great viewing platform too, which looks out over the whole thing. The old stripy guy steadfastly refused to pose for photos though, despite much encouragement from the crowd. He just sat there in the sun for 15 minutes not paying a blind bit of notice to us. I thought about jumping down and poking him in the face with a sharp stick to get him to move, but decided that his teeth were too big to argue with.
The Butterfly House is one of my favourite bits of the zoo. Yeah, I know it sounds yawn yawn boring, but as soon as you step inside you'll see why I like it. It's basically a very hot tented greenhouse, filled with tropical plants and foliage, with a soundtrack of jungle drums pounding out the speakers. And all around you flying and fluttering in the sky are hundreds of colourful butterflies, past your face, brushing up against your clothes, and straight into some poor toddlers face who promptly burst into tears. Of all the scary animals they've got in the zoo, it was the butterflies that made her cry.
I'm sitting here watching the show at Penguin Beach now. There must be about 100 of them all running around the edge of the pool chasing the keeper with his big bucket of fish. Meanwhile a pretty blonde bird (of the human variety) trots out an excitable speech for the millions of school kids sitting down in the stands. I only came for a sit down because I've been on my feet all day, but it was a nice enough way to end the day.
I normally recommend three hours for a trip to the zoo, but after looking at my watch on the way out I saw that I was here for four.
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