Banhu, Rubi, Indi and Heidi are the Asiatic Lions with whom we shared the night in London Zoo.
It was a birthday treat which was very special. We stayed in a lodge just feet away from where Banhu, the male, was sleeping. We heard him bellowing throughout the night, proclaiming that this was his territory. We were only temporary guests, but we were well looked after by the keepers.
The stay included three tours of the Zoo, during which we saw many of the animals close up and learned how most of them are endangered to a greater or lesser degree. The Zoological Institute of London, to give it the formal title, works in partnership with many others across fifty countries to save and preserve species that are at risk. It was impressive to learn what is being done, and how we are still finding out more about animal behaviour and the ways in which we can create conditions which are optimal for them.
Some of the highlights for me were learning about the care with which staff treated the animals In their charge, such as the Komodo dragon, the giant Galapagos turtles, and the pigmy hippos, who are all named and whose personalities were appreciated. It was also a privilege to help to feed the Humboldt penguins, and preparing food which would ‘enrich’ the experience of the animals, such as the Lemurs, tiny mongoose, and porcupines.
As paying guests we were thanked for supporting the work of the Institute which made our very pleasant stay feel even more worthwhile. It is an experience I can recommend, because it was not only enjoyable but a great learning experience.