I'm always excited to hear about my friend Inez's exotic tales of volunteering at ZSL (London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo), so when she offered to take me around London Zoo on a guest pass, I jumped at the chance. I've been many, many times before, but couldn't wait to see the zoo from Inez's perspective: the girl studied biology at Oxford and is now doing a masters in Wild Animal Biology in partnership with ZSL, so this was going to be an expert trip! Ok - brace yourself for an absolute onslaught of animal pictures, it's a long one today...
These sweet little kids had seemingly commandeered one another as besties.
Next up, a Timon moment with these very cute meerkats.
Inez wants to eventually specialise in birds, so next we visited the tropical bird house - a 19th century pavilion originally built as a reptile house.
I was taken with this jacana egg, which reminded me of Arabic script.
Birds with brilliantly-coloured plumage flew around above our heads and waddled up to us in search of food. Inez pointed out her favourite bird, a very cute, cartoon-like red-crested turaco. She's been working on a bird watercolour project lately (yes, as well as studying towards her MSci, she's a wonderful artist - so proud!) which features a turaco. Check out Inez's paintings here.
I thought this fruit dove was beautiful. Like a dressed-up version of our London pigeons.
Back outside, I got up close and personal with this extremely stoic hornbill...
And fell in love a bit with this inquisitive - and reportedly very naughty - monkey.
Inez and I got into the primate mood possibly a little more than was necessary, after watching the gorillas having their lunch. Cos we're prime mates too. Geddit? Ok, I just made myself feel ill.
We spent some time in the cool shadows of the reptile house, famous scene of the boa constrictor breakout in Harry Potter. There were definitely a few kids in there convinced of their ability to speak Parseltongue.
We also wandered through the aquarium, pausing to watch the horrifyingly giant carnivorous fish swim languidly back and forth, and to coo over the clownfish - i.e. Nemo.
It was a wondrously warm day, which meant ice cream was on the cards! Yay!
So much happiness when you've got an Oreo ice cream sandwich in your hand.
And when you're riding on a bronze hippo.
The real-life hippo was decidedly cuter, and more docile, than the sculpture. Although apparently they're responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal...
A giraffe wandered over to us to have a munch on some tasty branches.
We came across the sweetest couple - a baby emperor tamarin monkey clinging to the back of a golden lion tamarin. Although a fellow golden tamarin seemed affronted by the newly adopted charge, and tried to cuff the baby off the foster mother's back...
After watching otters rolling and playing with each other, Inez had to dash off to a lecture, and I struck out on my own to the penguin pool.
I must have honestly taken about a hundred pictures of the penguins. Which I reckon was warranted, since I've been on work experience at Penguin Books this month...So it's been a serious job to whittle these photos down, I can tell you.
I fell a bit in love with this poor penguin with a bad eye, and may possibly have shed a hormone-induced tear or two over him later on...
And this sweetie giving himself a good old groom.
Although I did get a baleful stare after he was done. I get it. Time to move it along.
I love watching penguins swimming. They're so effortlessly elegant, gliding sleekly through the water at top speed.
Thank you so much for taking me to the zoo, Inez! Zoos are a bit of a controversial subject, I know (and I definitely don't agree with the way animals are treated at some zoos) - but it's wonderful to be able to see some of the creatures that live at ZSL firsthand and learn about them. It definitely instilled a life-long love of animals in me as a child, and I spotted a few kids who I imagine will have gone away raving about the animals they saw for a good long while. I'll leave you with this seriously broodiness-inducing photo of a little French boy attempting to make friends with the penguins...*melts all over the floor*