Charity conservation zoo honoured by royal visit ahead of Christmas
The Countess of Wessex visited ZSL London Zoo to tour its newest exhibit, Monkey Valley, and join in Christmas celebrations with local children (Thursday 24 November). She was briefed on the range of work done by ZSL (the Zoological Society of London), the international conservation charity behind the zoo.
Guided by ZSL Director General Matthew Gould and ZSL President Professor Sir Jim Smith, The Countess explored the recently restored Grade II* listed Snowdon Aviary, now home to a lively troop of 10 Eastern black and white colobus monkeys as part of the Zoo’s new Monkey Valley exhibit.
Her Royal Highness also joined children who receive support from the Kaleidoscope Palliative Care and Community Children’s Nursing teams as they got crafty creating festive-themed activities for the Zoo’s ring-tailed lemurs; filling brightly wrapped boxes with sweet potato snacks for the stripy-tailed primates to forage for amongst the trees of their In with the Lemurs home - and weaving tasty edible Christmas wreaths from leaves sourced by the Zoo’s horticulture team.
The seasonal activities took place as part of ZSL’s Community Access Scheme, which brings more people closer to wildlife by providing discounted or free access to the Zoo for people with additional needs or disabilities, low-income households and people over 60 at risk of isolation.
The Countess then entered Rainforest Life, London’s only living rainforest, home to tree anteaters, two-toed sloths and red titi monkeys, where she was joined by children from St Mary’s Bryanston Square Church of England Primary School – visiting as part of ZSL’s Education Access Scheme, which enables schools in Camden and Westminster to take regular educational trips to London Zoo.
Her Royal Highness also met ZSL zookeepers who care for more than 14,000 animals at the conservation zoo, as well as ZSL’s Counter Trafficking Officer Grant Miller, and Fabrice Inkonkoy, a Forestry Technical Expert from ZSL’s Sustainable Business and Finance Team.
ZSL Director General Matthew Gould said: “We were honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness to ZSL London Zoo today, to join in some of our festive, educational activities, learn more about ZSL’s vital science and conservation work, and visit Monkey Valley - which itself has an important link to the Royal Family.
“The restored Snowdon Aviary structure, which remains a remarkable feat of architecture, was first designed in the 1960s by the late Earl of Snowdon, Antony Armstrong-Jones – then husband to Princess Margaret. Queen Elizabeth II visited the exhibit in 1967, accompanied by her sister.”
Queen Elizabeth II was ZSL’s Patron from her coronation in 1953 until her death - following in the footsteps of every British Monarchs since 1829, when King George IV granted ZSL its first Royal Charter.
Matthew added: “We were particularly pleased Her Royal Highness was able to meet some of the thousands of children who are part of ZSL’s Community Access Scheme. The scheme lets children who would not otherwise be able to visit the zoo have the chance to do so, and be inspired by our animals and the work we do to protect wildlife around the world.”
"The Royal Family has been a vital part of ZSL’s 200-year history and has helped us to inspire millions to protect wildlife around the world.”
Find out more about ZSL’s Community Access Scheme, Educational Access Scheme and the Zoo’s festive activities - taking place between 26 November and 3 January - at www.zsl.org