Behind the scenes at the world’s most famous zoo
Tuesday 26 October 2010
Life at ZSL is the focus of a new three-part documentary for ITV1, after cameras went behind the scenes with staff for the first time in a decade.
Armed poachers, 250lb newborns, battling dragons and gorilla politics – it’s all in a days work for staff at ZSL.
Staff at the Society, which runs ZSL London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo, and undertakes science and conservation work in more than 50 countries, were followed by cameras for a year for the three hour-long episodes.
And as ZSL London Zoo celebrates the birth of the male baby gorilla six days ago, it is fitting that viewers will be able to watch the moment zoo keepers discovered his mum Mjukuu was pregnant.
Cameras followed zookeepers, conservationists, scientists, and vets as they went about their daily business and the series reveals the emotionally intense, and sometimes heartbreaking, experiences of our devoted staff.
Gorilla keeper Dan Simmonds helps the vets as they fight to save a desperately ill gorilla while the head of reptiles and amphibians, Dr Ian Stephen, anxiously monitors the brutal mating of a pair of Komodo dragons.
Burly bird keepers Adrian Walls and Tim Savage try to rescue an abandoned penguin chick and save a vulture from the unwelcome attentions of its greedy father.
And like an expectant father, Rob Conachie watches nervously as his favourite Asian elephant goes into labour for the first time.
The conservation department of ZSL works in over fifty different countries around the globe to protect wild animals and their habitats. The series follows ZSL staff on a journey to Nepal, where they try to save a critically endangered species of rhino.
Closer to home, efforts to re-introduce animals to the wild, including a bird that disappeared in England 10 years ago, are ongoing. Efforts to breed a rare species of frog airlifted from a valley in the Caribbean, where deadly chytrid fungus was threatening them with extinction are also followed.
ZSL's reach goes far beyond the zoos, to conserving hundreds of species in the wild. Every opportunity is explored to raise money for this vital work, and one such venture is the Friendly Spider Programme, which sees arachnaphobes undergoing hypnosis sessions to try to overcome their fear of spiders.
ITV1's 'The Zoo' starts on Tuesday 9 November at 8pm