Yesterday I did a day of work in London. Because everything finished far earlier than I was anticipating, I had time to kill so, accompanied by trusty sidekick John Conway, what else could I do but spend a few hours at ZSL’s London Zoo (ZSL = Zoological Society of London)? We had a great time and saw some neat creatures: here are a few of the highlights. We start with one of the most awesome creatures on the planet…
Yes, the incredible Komodo dragon Varanus komodoensis. To be honest I’d forgotten that they have them there: I think there are also dragons at Chester Zoo, Colchester Zoo and (correct me if I’m wrong) Bristol Zoo, so they’re ‘easier’ to see than ever before if you live in the UK. In 2004 one of the zoo’s dragons, a female called Nina, died after falling off a wall: she’d been climbing it in, apparently, an effort to reach her mate, Raja. Another of the zoo’s dragons – Sungai – is world famous for demonstrating parthenogenesis in 2006 (she’d previously been kept with Raja, but the babies were demonstrated not to be his). I need to stop talking dragons there, and move on…
While wandering around the cat section, we were attracted to a dispute that occurred between these two Serval Leptailurus serval. I have no idea which cat was male and which was female. If you’ve never seen serval before, you might be surprised at how big they are: they’re round about 60 cm tall at the shoulder, and strikingly long-legged. While we stood watching them, a lady said to her daughter “Don’t they look just like cats?”. We laughed and walked away.
Here’s me with the Snowdon Aviary. Constructed between 1962 and 1964, it’s an impressive thing – the problem is that it’s a bit of a disappointment, housing only ibises, a couple of Green peafowl Pavo muticus and Black kite Milvus migrans. There were a couple of medium-sized gulls in there as well: I strugggled to identify them and gave up, and remained nonplussed as to whether they were some obscure exotic species, or just wayward Black-headed gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus that had gotten trapped. Last time I visited (something like ten years ago), there were Inca terns Larosterna inca, but no sign of them this time round.
However: don’t get me wrong, the zoo has some awesome birds. I won’t start discussing them, as it’ll mean adding lots of words and spending lots of time that I don’t have. But here are a couple of highlights: Von der Decken’s hornbill Tockus deckeni, Sunbittern Eurypyga helias (a first for me: John and I spoke about the pouches…. which I later discovered are present in sungrebes, not sunbitterns, d’oh! [see comments]) and African jacana Actophilornis africana.
Finally, it was great to see amphibian expert, EDGE worker and ace Tet Zoo supporter Helen Meredith plastered all over a wall – wow, fame at last Helen!
Anyway, it was a good day.