Among the animals

Sunbathing otters
Sunbathing otters


The pictures give you a clue as to where we went today. It was a warm sunny day, perfect for such an expedition.

First, however, we went for a late breakfast or early lunch, to Cafe Renoir in Kentish Town. It’s a pleasant little cafe and the service is efficient and polite. The walls are adorned with pictures which seem to be composed of quotations from Renoir’s paintings.

Then off we went to the zoo. Did I say that we had become Friends of ZSL? This gives us access to London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo whenever we wish. This means that when we do go, we feel no pressure to see everything. We can go for a short or a long visit and return again and again.

Despite this, I remain equivocal about zoos. No animal would choose to have its liberty curtailed and be confined to a zoo so doesn’t this mean that zoos are immoral?

It can be argued that zoos are educational, teaching people about animals but I am not really sure that this is true. Most people seem just to gawp at the animals for entertainment.

Again, it is said that zoos play a role in conservation by keeping a stock of endangered species and breeding them. But to what purpose: after several generations of zoo breeding, these species cannot be returned to the wild as they will have lost the ability to survive unaided. Wouldn’t it be far better to spend the money on conservation projects in the wild?

These are hard questions and opinion is divided. For now we have Friends’ passes and visit London Zoo often. Perhaps we shall decide at some future point not to do this again.

Meercat on sentry duty
Meercat on sentry duty

We toured the zoo extensively and took a lot of photos. I used to think that photographing animals in the zoo was rather like shooting fish in a barrel, that is, too easy. This turns out not to be true in the modern zoo where animals are provided with environments that allow them to hide away from public gaze if they wish to.

Another problem is that in some environments, such as aquariums, the lighting is kept at a low level, so you have the problem of trying to photograph fast moving creatures when a slow exposure is required. It’s hardly necessary to say that the use of flash is banned though the public seems not to realize this or to ignore it.

We watched the penguins being fed and also the herons and the gulls who come along to feeding sessions to snatch the odd snack, seeing no reason not to be invited to the party.

Tigger was keen to see the otters and today these attractive creatures put on an entertaining show. They seem to enjoy the attention that they receive.

Next to the otters were the meercats. We watched the antics of a family with a youngster while this adult remained on sentry duty looking this way and that for signs of danger.

They are very appealing creatures.

For me, the highlight of the visit came when we walked through the butterfly enclosure. If you like butterflies and moths, this presents a beautiful experience because the insects occupy the same space as the visitors and fly about among the people. I was envious when I saw a butterfly alight on someone’s shoulder but a moment later, one came and perched on my handbag! It remained there, apparently quite content, and I found myself the centre of a crowd intent on photographing “my” butterfly. In the end I had gently to persuade it to fly away.

My butterfly
My butterfly

If the photo is not perfect you must know that I had to take it one-handed while holding up my handbag. In other circumstances I would have used manual focus but in this case had to let the camera do its best.

Despite my reservations about zoos, I enjoy coming into close contact with animals. Some are obviously too dangerous to touch, either because they are major predators, e.g. tigers and lions, or because they are poisonous, e.g. snakes and scorpions, and we must always respect them, whatever their characteristics, and avoid harming them.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Among the animals

  1. Ed says:

    I missed the feeding of the penguins because I was myself at the cafeteria… and although I read all the arguments in favour of zoos in Life Of Pi, by Yann Martel, I still feel these animals would be much happier in their natural environment even for a shorter time and with more threats around. But I couldn’t help laughing at the suricates (meercats) and otters ! A pity we didn’t pay a visit to the gorillas together.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I suppose that as long as zoos exist, then we must make sure that they are run in the best way possible for the animals though because of the need to provide viewing facilities for human visitors, the zoo environment will always be artificial to a certain degree.

  2. Catz says:

    I absolutely love going to the zoo. You got some great shots!

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