This week, my mum and I took a trip down to London, both for a nice little break together and so that I could use the Keeper for a Day experience at London Zoo that I received (in voucher form) last Christmas.
We only had one free afternoon for proper exploring, so I decided we should go to the British Museum. Despite it being the most visited museum in the UK, I had never actually been there before – I always seem to focus on the Natural History Museum. There was so much on display that a few hours simply wasn’t enough for a proper experience, but what we saw was still fascinating. I was most intrigued by the Egyptian artefacts, such as the Rosetta Stone and the mummies.
In the evening, already tired out from the back-and-forth on the Tube and manouvering through the crowded streets, we headed off to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. It was a really wonderful show and one I’d strongly recommend. The visuals were great, particularly how the movements of the different animals were performed; during the introductory ‘Circle of Life’ sequence, a huge elephant and rhino came walking down the aisle to the stage. The songs, of course, were excellent too, including those which don’t feature in the original film. I particularly liked how the musical incorporated ‘He Lives In You’ from The Lion King 2, and has Mufasa sing a variation on it to Simba; it felt very poignant when you know what’s coming up later. Another part I liked was when Scar tells Zazu to “sing something with a little more bounce in it”: instead of ‘It’s A Small World’, Zazu sings ‘Let It Go’. (“Anything but that!!”)
The following day, it was finally time for the Keeper for a Day experience. That morning, myself and four others met up with Nathan, the keeper who would be taking care of us for the day, and had our itinerary explained. First stop was the Bactrian camels, where we performed that job that takes up most of a zookeeper’s day: mucking them out! Fortunately, what the camels left behind was easier to work with than that left by some animals.
Next was what I found to be the best bit of the whole day: feeding the giraffes. Climbing up to an elevated walkway, we offered them some oak branches, which they accepted with some flexible tongue work and forceful tugging!
We then chopped up some buckets of fruit for the bearded pigs – though we couldn’t actually go in with them as they can be quite aggressive. Instead, we threw them some coconuts. Not all of them smashed – but the pigs are quite capable of breaking them themselves!
Then there was more cleaning, giving the side of the Humboldt penguins’ pool a good scrub. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the younger and friendlier individuals. Penguins are surprisingly smooth to stroke.
After lunch, we gave some bits of fruit to the colobus monkeys, one of which was holding a baby.
The llamas and alpacas also got a nice bit of fruit, proving less pushy and much more picky than I had anticipated.
We then got the brilliant opportunity for more close encounters with the ring-tailed coatis…
…and the meerkats, though they proved a bit more shy.
And finally, we were able to say hello to the sleeping aardvarks!
Just wandering around the zoo afterward allowed for more interesting sightings, such as this utterly alien-looking (and endangered) Chinese giant salamander, 1.3 metres long.
All in all, the experience was even more fun than I had expected – a zoological equivalent of visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! A big thank you to London Zoo for a great day!