Animal Adventure reopens at London Zoo
PUBLISHED: 12:03 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:03 01 August 2019
Eighteen months after a fire tore through a play area, a new 32,000 square foot attraction has reopened giving young visitors the chance to have fun and get up close to wildlife
Eighteen months after a fire laid waste to London Zoo's animal adventure zone, a new playpark has opened at the Regent's Park attraction with improved facilities for both families and animals.
A selfie-spot under a hot air balloon called Misha's View is poignantly named after the nine-year-old aardvark who perished in the December 2017 blaze along with four meerkats.
The cause of the fire remained undetermined following an investigation by the Met Police and London Fire Brigade, but the insurance money has funded the revamp.
The gift shop where the fire raged has made way for a new outdoor amphiteatre and cafe where children can play on a replica of Darwin's ship The Beagle and get up close to animals including llama, pygmy goats, kune kune pigs, meerkats, Patagonian parrots and a Tawny owl.
The zoo's expert keepers bring out the animals at regular intervals and talk about their habits - how llamas trek across the Andes or meerkats set out alone to find a mate.
Llama training and enrichment includes placing branches in a replica tree so children get an idea of how they browse in the wild.
Rob Harland, team leader for the Animal Adventure zone, said young visitors can also help to make enrichment for the animals, such as placing snacks into containers to replicate their foraging in the wild.
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"It's all about public interaction and live interpreation, getting younger visitors up close to the animals," he said.
"It's great to connect with nature from a young age when they are so responsive, to create those memorable moments and inpsire the next generation of conservationists and keepers."
The 32,000 square foot area also includes the popular wild river splash zone - with added toilets and changing facilities for when children get soggy. A climbing wall, play equipment and improved fencing mean parents keep an eye on young ones while taking a coffee break.
Harland said keepers were heavily involved in planning revamped enclosures for the porcupines, meerkats, coatis and yellow mongoose.
"It's also been about providing the best space for our animals - the coatis have doubled the space of their enclosure and the mongoose have enhanced features like really good quality basking spots and UV light and subsoil that emulates the African scrub and plants where they come from."
On our visit my children took part in an enrichment exercise where they stuffed pig nuggets into plastic logs for them to snuffle out. Rob first showed them a video clip of wild boar foraging in the wild and adds: "With enrichment we think about what we want to achieve for the animal - to stimulate the senses, create social interaction - and the type we are creating be it scent making or foraging.
"It's about using different learning styles to make things visual and interesting - there are things like stickers and badges they can take away."
The Adventure Zone is built on the site of the original children's zoo which was the first of its kind when it opened in 1938. Its latest incarnation has been designed to start children on a lifetime's journey of wildlife discovery encouraging them to delve into the often surprising life of animals.
Visit zsl.org for more details or to book tickets with 10 per cent off.