Five Christmas animals to visit at ZSL London Zoo

by ZSL on

Mulled wine, mince pies and fairy lights remind us all that the magical Christmas feeling is definitely in the air. Here at ZSL London Zoo we're lucky enough to have a few residents that remind us of the magic of Christmas all year round.

So whether you want to keep the tradition of Santa alive or bring the story of the Nativity to life, we've got all the Christmas sparkle you need to make some magical memories.

Donkeys enjoy Christmas at ZSL London Zoo

Donkey

Featured in one of the most famous Christmas stories of all is the donkey, with Mary riding from Nazareth to Bethlehem ahead of the birth of baby Jesus. Our two males, Acer and Clyde are a stone's throw from our Bactrian camel enclosure and can often be found wondering around their paddock or enjoying a delicious bag of hay. Originating from Africa and the Middle East, this species was tamed more than 5,000 years ago and used as work animals in many countries across the world.

This donkey is a domesticated member of the horse family and a descendant of the African wild ass, which is now one of the most endangered animals in the world. Wild donkeys are referred to as burros and due to their natural environment, can go long periods of time with limited food and water.

Reindeer at ZSL London Zoo

Reindeer

Famous for pulling Santa's sleigh through the night's sky on Christmas Eve, reindeer are one of the first animals that spring to mind when you think about the festive holiday. 

Unlike other species of deer, they're the only breed in which both males and females grow antlers, with some getting up to 3ft tall. Reindeers can run up to 50 miles per hour and their hooves have sharp outer edges, helping them to travel across ice and rocks.

Visit ahead of Christmas and you'll have the chance to discover more about our reindeer during our special event Reindeer Royalty. Visitors will get to meet our resident reindeer coach and hear all about how our reindeers are getting ready for the big day.

Robin

Robin

Spend some time camped out in our bird hide and you may well spot one of the many robins that live at ZSL London Zoo. The hide in the north side of the Zoo overlooks our tranquil woodland walk, equipped with bird feeders and lots of shrubbery, providing the perfect opportunity to spot Britain's National Bird.

Depending on their age, some robins you see might still have a brown breast until their first moult, at which point it turns the familiar red.

Robins first became associated with Christmas in the early to mid-1800s when postmen wore a red uniform and were known as the 'redbreasts'. In the run up to the festive period, postmen were out delivering post more often than usual and as a result, the robin 'redbreast' began appearing on Christmas cards to represent this.

Bactrian camel

Bactrian camel

Another animal featured in the Nativity is the humble camel. In depictions of the Nativity, three wise men ride on camels as they followed a star to Bethlehem, bearing gifts for the new born baby Jesus.

ZSL London Zoo is home to two Bactrian camels, Noemie and Genghis, so if you’re looking to bring the Christmas Nativity to life, be sure to pay our pair a visit and learn more about this Critically Endangered species.

In the wild, Bactrian camels roam deserts in search of food and water, drinking up to 40 gallons of water a day to ensure they stay hydrated. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Bactrian camel is that they store water in their humps, when in fact they're a reserve of fatty tissue. Bactrian camels are extremely well adapted to life in the desert, protecting themselves from the sand with three eyelids and two sets of eyelashes, as well as furry ears.

Barn Owl

Owls

During the festive period, catching a glimpse of owls against a snowy landscape can make for a magical sight and here at ZSL London Zoo we're lucky enough to have a number of different species among our living collection, including the barn owl, hawk owl and burrowing owl. Thanks to popular novels such as Harry Potter, a real sense of magic has been added to these mysterious creatures.

Christmas at the Zoo

The Zoo is open every day, apart from Christmas Day. We hope you'll be able to visit our festive favourites and find out more about them. 

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