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London Zoo Lates

Tonight, David and I went to London Zoo Lates.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, London Zoo has a late night opening every Friday night during the month of August with food and drink options and a silent disco so as not to scare the animals.  The whole idea is for people to experience the zoo in a whole different way.  I like the concept but having been to one, I can honestly say that I would never do it again.

My reasons are two-fold.  Having seen wildlife on safari and endangered cats in sanctuaries where they live in huge, quiet enclosures, seeing animals in the zoo was, in a word, horrific.  The enclosures at London Zoo are tiny.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the constant chatter of people and small children (the Tower of Babel had nothing on the noise emanating from the zoo), combined with camera flashes constantly going off must be hell for the poor animals.

For me, the most distressing sight of the evening was the Sumatran tigress.  The lions and tigers were clearly a big draw and the crowds surrounding their enclosures were enormous.  We got to the tiger area as the light was beginning to fade but we could see the tigers clearly.  The big male was lying on its side under the platform and the female was pacing.  Now, I don’t claim to be an expert but it was painfully obvious that the tigress was extremely stressed and why wouldn’t she be?  The enclosure was far too small for two cats of their size and whenever she walked close to the glass viewing area, children screamed at the top of their lungs whilst shoving their mobile phones in her face to take photos.  From where I was standing, even I was blinded by the multitude of xenon flash, LED lights and whatever other type of flash was available.   Why were there no signs requesting visitors to be quiet?  Why on earth were there no rules forbidding flash photography?  These poor cats literally had nowhere to go to seek respite.  When the tigress started to pant, I had to leave.  I just couldn’t bear to see her suffer anymore.

I get why London Zoo have these late nights and I understand now why they are restricted to just 4 Fridays a year, but surely there has to be a better way to raise awareness of their plight without putting the animals’ welfare at risk?  The establishment are aware that the animals need quiet – why else would they say in their blurb “a silent discos so as to not scare the animals”.  The silence or at least quiet needs to be enforced throughout the zoo as does a rule governing the use of flash photography.

I felt so strongly about this that I sent an email to London Zoo  with my thoughts shortly after my visit.  I’ve yet to receive a reply.  One thing’s for sure though – I will certainly not be going there in a hurry ever again.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Hang! I fully share your point of view.
    There is at the moment a good offer on the ticket price for a London zoo night and my boyfriend and I were valuing if it would be worth taking this chance or not. My doubts were, beside the already stressful enough idea of seeing the animals only in small cages, is it not going to be more like a human circus? And is it fair to disturb the animals even during the only time of the day in which they could be left in peace?
    The fact that already 4.500 people has booked these tickets which are only valid on 2 dates makes me think it would be a nightmare and as we tend to think, two more people won’t make a difference, but in fact everybody does and I wonder if it’s worth the half price to pay at all…
    As you see they didn’t even bother to send you a reply.. As a visitor, your opinion should be important to them, but apparently it’s never the case with these things, only the crowd is what counts instead, and they will be allowed to do whatever they want as long as it pleases them, when, really, it’s the public who should be kept in a cage, not the animals…


    1. Anonymous

      Hello Marta!

      Thank you for your comments. Yes, I am very disappointed that London Zoo has not seen fit to reply to me. I made a comment on their twitter feed the other day when they started advertising zoo lates again. It was a simple question, had they made any actions to ensure that the animals would not be put under stress like they were last year. Funnily enough, they haven’t even bothered to reply to my tweet in their timeline either. Their silence speaks volumes.

      London Zoo clearly do not care about conservation or their animals – for them, it is about how many people they can get through their gates and how much money they can make. Their business is to entertain humans – why else would they spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on building a tunnel so that people can see the penguins under water but spend nothing to increase the enclosures for the tigers?

      I certainly wouldn’t recommend people go to zoo lates. It is a terrible experience, especially if you are someone who genuinely cares about animals.


      1. Anonymous

        Thanx Hang!

        We shouldn’t be surprised that they didn’t answer you on twitter either… Yet it still makes me sad. It’s just like you describe it. And unless a rule comes from higher or most of visitors disapprove the way the animals are kept and refuse to go to zoos like this(very unlikely) I guess things will stay the way they are.

        My boyfriend and I finally have decided not to go at all!! 🙂
        We’ll hire a car one day and go to see the RSCC instead!!!
        I’m looking forward to it!


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