Wednesday, February 01, 2012

London Zoo

Today we went to London Zoo, because there's nothing that fits a wintry day better than looking at tropical animals. Outdoors.

I knew it would be a struggle from the start, as we trudged across the icy, blasted heath that is Regents Park in January. Twice we stopped, first for a hot chocolate at the Cow And Coffee Bean, and then for hot food at the Honest Sausage. Honestly, I couldn't eat the sausages there (nothing meat-free, which deprecates them vs Hong Kong's Brat) but never mind. On we went.

The zoo itself is much as I remember, yet much changed. I've always done the aviary last on previous visits; this time, after looking at the giraffes shyly peering out of their house, we went over to look at ibises and other birds, then off to chortle at the various owls that stare, somewhere between imperiously, professorially and camply, down on us humans.

After that we were chilled to the bone, so we spent most of the rest of the day in the rainforest section, where at least it was warm, and then rushed past camels, sheep, a turkey, some fluffy chickens and a few hippopotami at a gallop, conscious that we had to get back to Covent Garden at 4:30 for a pie and a pint.

There are an awful lot of birds in the zoo, one way and another, and I think we inspected most of them before we left. I'd swear blind that there was a mountain of bears in the zoo, but there was no sign of it, no mention at all. Still, I depleted my camera's battery quite comprehensively, recording all sorts of avians (finishing with a group of pink pelicans).

London Zoo is big. I'm not sure if it's bigger than Taipei or not, but it has the feel of being kinder, in most cases: the animal enclosures are bigger, and certainly much larger than the gloom of the zoo in Kota Kinabalu, where you could peer at a neurotic sunbear padding constantly round a yard of churned up mud. I tried to express this to a camera crew on the way out of the zoo, who wanted to ask me what I thought of the zoo, and whether I thought it was better to have endangered animals in a zoo or out in the wild. I thought that was a bit of a silly question: one of the reasons animals are endangered is because somebody is shooting them, so putting them into the wild to get poached is not the best way to stop them being endangered. Maybe I was being too terminologically exact.

It's better than the last time I was approached for a vox pop, back in 2001 when a Channel 5 news crew asked my opinion of US air strikes, and I thought it was a question about American industrial action, not somebody being bombed...


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