Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A Day at London Zoo

This is Dirk, a 70 year-old Galapagos Giant Tortoise, whose picture I took at London Zoo on Monday, during a day out with my nephew and niece. It was lovely spending the afternoon with the family, but I have one problem with what the Born Free Foundation has described, with splendidly restrained sarcasm, as the "venerable captive animal institution".

Whilst I appreciate the fact that the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a charity, receives no government funding and therefore has to fundraise, it is incredibly expensive - a family ticket costs £60 and that's just to get in.

Once inside, £7 for a couple of hotdogs for the kids, more money for rides and then gift kiosks strategically placed to maximise the chances that children will pester their parents to spend more, makes London Zoo feel pretty mercenary. The same is true for parts of its website. The financial difficulties that the ZSL faced in the early 1990s, which threatened the zoo's closure, seems in my view to have pushed it too far towards the commercial exploitation of its visitors.

As for the commercial exploitation of its animals and the scientific benefits of zoos in conserving biodiversity, this survey is thought-provoking.

Anyway, enough moaning... here's a picture of a cute meerkat... If you want to understand the power of advertising and particularly that terrible but effective TV ad, stand by the meerkat enclosure and listen to what the British visitors have to say. And then check out the number of people following this Twitter feed and shake your head with disbelief...

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