Zookeeper's sponsored swim as London Zoo reopens indoor areas

Zookeeper Nick Burnham with his dad Nige who are swimming 5k to raise funds for ZSL

Zookeeper Nick Burnham is swimming 5k with his dad Nige to raise funds for ZSL - Credit: ZSL/Nick Burnham

Zookeeper Nick Burnham is swimming 5km with his dad to raise money for cash-strapped London Zoo, which has reopened its indoor attractions.

After spending his days working with the zoo's primates, the Belsize Park resident trains for his marathon swim at Parliament Hill Lido.

ZSL London Zoo, London, UK. ZSL London Zoo opens its Tiny Giants exhibit.

ZSL London Zoo opens its Tiny Giants exhibit with aquarist Jeremy Simmons meeting clownfish Nemo in the new coral tank - Credit: Dave Stevenson

"My dad and I like open water swimming and this seemed like a bigger challenge than running 5K," he said.

"I've never swum it before, but I've been acclimatising by training at the lido since March when the water was 8 degrees. The water temperature in Bournemouth is 14 degrees at the moment so it will feel balmy!"

During the pandemic, Nick continued to work with the gorillas, gibbons and lemurs at the Regent's Park attraction, which was closed on and off for 7 months.

"It was a novelty at first but then it felt eerie to have a big site with no-one on it," he said. "It's nice to have people back. The gorillas are quite enthusiastic people-watchers so the visitors keep them entertained, and Jimmy the Gibbon who celebrated his 30th birthday during lockdown, is a real performer. He has been swinging for people in the park, and is excited to have visitors back."

Zookeeper Nick Burnham with one of the gibbons at London Zoo

Zookeeper Nick Burnham with one of the gibbons at London Zoo - Credit: ZSL

The gorillas, who like to listen to Classic FM, are vegetarians who enjoy a diet of kale, carrots, sweetcorn and sweet potato.

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Nick adds: "It costs about £1million a week to feed the animals at Whipsnade and London Zoo, plus there are conservation projects in 50 countries including with gorillas in Cameroon. As a charity, lockdown has hit ZSL hard, losing around £20million. Raising money seemed the best way to help."

London Zoo reopened its indoor attractions today including the famous reptile house, Rainforest Life, and new exhibit Tiny Giants From Minibeasts to Coral Reefs, which has included replanting living coral reef confiscated by UK Border Force after being illegally trafficked. Visitors can watch it bloom and grow with blue tangs and clownfish sharing the colourful ecosystem.

ZSL London Zoo, London, UK. ZSL London Zoo opens its Tiny Giants exhibit.

Sawyer Stevenson comes face to face with a golden orb spider at London Zoo's Tiny Giants exhibit - Credit: Dave Stevenson

"The best way to help the zoo is to buy a ticket and come and have a safe enjoyable day out," added Nick, who swims for #5KMay, Run for Heroes on May 25.