A couple of exceptional zoos.

Zoos are a passion of ours, and despite some people’s aversion to them, the majority do excellent and vital conservation work. My husband studied zoology at university and my daughter volunteered for six years with the Taronga Zoo ‘Youth at the Zoo’ programme.  http://taronga.org.au/yatz As you can see, it’s in the blood.

Twycross Zoo, in Warwickshire, is a superb little zoo, one of my favourites (and I’ve been to a lot of zoos). We discovered it in January 2011 because we found a brochure advertising Twycross as having snow leopards, my daughter’s favourite animal. This must be one of the most spectacular snow leopard display anywhere. Taronga Zoo  http://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo has snow leopards, and the best views of any zoo in the world. The Billabong Zoo in Port Macquarie also has snow leopards but neither come close to the display at Twycross. You can even see the snow leopards for free if you have neither the time nor inclination to do a full tour of the zoo. The zoo has built its reception area, gift shop and cafe with a huge picture window overlooking the snow leopard enclosure. You can sit and have lunch or coffee for as long as you like whilst watching these magnificent cats. The Twycross website http://twycrosszoo.org/ (2013) currently advertises their snow leopard cubs, so they must be doing something right.

England Twycross Zoo 007b

England Twycross Zoo 007e

Twycross also has a sloth in their nocturnal house. What a totally laid back creature. Being a weekday in winter we had a private tour of the nocturnal house. The sloth, hanging upside down in his tree, was completely unperturbed by our really close proximity. If the keeper hadn’t been there we could have easily smuggled him out in our bag.

Now this will sound silly, but if you visit Twycross you must go into the bathrooms and checkout the scene behind the mirrors. They have a wonderful display of leaf-cutter ants, busily going about their business, seemingly oblivious to your presence. So very imaginative.

Being animal lovers, my husband and I have read the books of Gerald Durrell and were always aware of his conservation work and the zoo he established on Jersey in the Channel Islands. Our history with visiting Durrell, as this zoo is called, somewhat resembles our “puffin hunting” experiences.

In May 1984, whilst on our version of a European Grand Tour, we specifically went to St Malo, a quaint town on the Brittany coast in France. St Malo is the closest port to Jersey and we could catch either a hydrofoil or car ferry across for a day trip to the zoo. Despite horribly rough weather we were determined to continue with our trip and caught the hydrofoil across. We found the zoo, but in the horizontal, driving rain, the animals had more sense than us and were snug in their dens. We saw an iguana and a golden lion marmoset! The famed gorilla walk was deserted. On the way back to France the hydrofoil was cancelled and the ferry trip was definitely challenging. As I am not here to frighten you I won’t elaborate further!

In July 2008, accompanied by our daughter, we finally managed to return to Jersey and to Durrell. It didn’t rain and we had a fabulous day. Durrell is a unique zoo in that its residents are all endangered species, so you will see animals here that you may not find elsewhere. The logo for Durrell is a dodo and they do some amazing conservation work around the world in an effort to prevent other species’ extinction. They are definitely a worthy cause to support.   http://www.durrell.org/

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Otter, Durrell, Jersey

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Grey bamboo lemur, Durrell, Jersey

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