Sunday, 30 August 2009

A trip to the zoo

Yesterday, it being a bank holiday weekend, we decided to visit the zoo. The only real zoo I've visited in the past has been Paignton Zoo, although as I pointed out to Dave, Plymouth used to have a little zoo when I was a small child. I remember it vaguely and believe it later became a skateboard park!

Our local zoo is Twycross and according to Richard (who came along too) they'd had a recent arrival in the form a new baby elephant. Not being at all sure where Twycross is (my local geography is still terrible), Richard drove and I did the picnic.

The first thing we saw or rather heard as we were queuing up to get in, was the gibbons. I don't have any photo's of them as they were not being particularly obliging, but boy oh boy were they loud!

While were trying to see what all the fuss was about in the gibbon enclosure, I noticed a ruckus ongoing in a nearby paddock, where a rather large cameloid appeared to be trying to climb over a fence while sounding rather angry. Dave looked over and said 'Oh they've got alpaca'... Which is close, but not quite.

This is a guanaco having a set to of some sort of with a vicuna in the neighbouring paddock. The guanaco was the larger and noisier of the two, but the vicuna seemed to be trying to get at the guanaco, so I'm fairly sure this was a two sided argumment.

Meanwhile, the families of the two antagonists got on with the important things which mostly involved sitting around. The guanaco and vicuna being from the same region of South America and the vicuna is a wild cousin/ancestor of the domestic alpaca. Both the guanaco and vicuna are apparently valued for their fleece.

Next door to the guanaco and vicuna were the prairie dogs, which were very sweet and very reminiscent of the equally sweet meerkats. So began a long day of walking around and taking lots of photographs, many of which didn't come out well because of the reflective properties of glass.

Twycross's main thing seems to be primates of which there were many. Those that caught my eye being the orangutan...

This chimp...

And the bonobo...

Looking at the higher apes made me feel rather sad that they were locked up in cages. But what really got to me was the insensitivity and ignorance of some of my fellow members of the public who were staring at them. Despite signs saying "Quiet please" and "Don't bang on the glass, it will frighten me" I saw many people, mostly women with children, doing exactly that, shouting and generally trying to make the animals do something more interesting. And one memorable overheard conversation in one of the Chimp enclosures started...

- "Look mum, chimpanzees!"
- "No... They're MONKEYS." his mother wrongly corrected him, despite the fact that they were clearly chimps.

I'm going to leave you with two of my favourite photographs from the day...

Firstly this baby meerkat which was playing with one of the "ANIMALS BITE" sign that warned caution against those parents lowering or dangling their children over the wall of the enclosure.

And then this one, of a baby emperor tamarin asleep on its mum's (I assume) shoulders. I must have taken about 20 shots of this pair and this is the only one that came out well!


  1. Sounds fun, I keep meaning to take the boys as it isn't far from Coventry, I promise I will not correct mine if they get the primate type right but then i got told off for saying we evolved from monkeys as I should have said apes because us and they don't have tails and monkeys do!! so say the just turned 6 year old !

  2. We go to Twycross quite a lot. We saw the new baby elephant the other week - gorgeous! Euan loves the various monkeys and apes, and the penguins.

    I know what you mean about the cages, but I always feel most sorry for the two poor sealions - hardly any water and no enrichment activities/scenery for them. They seem to be making lots of improvement so maybe they'll improve the habitat for them in the future...