One of the problems with being a townie child is that most encounters with wildlife are either of the tamed or caged varieties. Owning a dog or gerbil certainly teaches children something about the responsibility of looking after animals, and zoos can give them the opportunity to learn about more exotic species. But seeing animals in their natural habitat, or at least something close to that, is difficult in this country. As a young girl, I would be taken to London Zoo to see the penguins (a favourite), laugh at the apes’ antics and admire the pink feathers of the flamingo. But I did always find the cages distressing. Now, London Zoo has spent £5.3 million on a Gorilla Kingdom.
For the first time, the gorillas will not spend their days gazing through bars. Visitors to the zoo have reported feeling rather dangerously exposed to the gorillas, but they are protected by a moat (gorillas can’t swim). Whatever one thinks of zoos, they do help us to study and, therefore, conserve species that could otherwise be under attack. The more natural their environment, the better these efforts will be. London Zoo, in this instance, should be applauded.