Keepers at ZSL London Zoo are calling on the public to help name three new fluffy-haired lockdown arrivals, as they count down to the historic zoo’s reopening on Monday 12 April.
A trio of young male South American alpacas, all less than a year old, arrived at the closed outdoor attraction from a British farm two weeks ago and instantly boosted the spirits of dedicated zookeepers - who have continued to work on site to care for the zoo’s animals throughout each pandemic lockdown.
Keepers have busied themselves getting to know the three youngsters ever since, and after whittling down choices to three names for each of them, are now asking people to cast the deciding vote through an online poll on the ZSL website.
Alpaca keeper Veronica Heldt said: “It’s been a joy to welcome such adorable new arrivals during lockdown and we can’t wait for our visitors to meet the new trio when they’re able - we know it’s been hard for our biggest fans, who have missed seeing the animals they love while we’ve been closed, so we’ve decided to enlist everyone’s help in choosing the perfect names for our newcomers.
“We’ve shortlisted three choices for each alpaca - partly inspired by some of the sweet treats that have kept us going through lockdown - which people can find here. We’re excited to find out if we’ll have an ‘Alpacaccino’ or a ‘Snowball’, a ‘Toffee’ or a ‘Cookie’– it's up to our visitors now!”
Zoo fans can see pictures and read more about each alpaca on the ZSL website before voting, with the winning names set to be announced just ahead of reopening.
“The white alpaca loves rolling around in the paddock and is very skilled at avoiding us when we try to untangle twigs and straw from his magnificent cloud of hair,” said Veronica. “Our brown fluffy-haired alpaca is a real softy and likes nothing more than snuggling up to his pals, while the other brown alpaca, who has long straight locks, is the most vocal – he's a brilliant hummer, and we’ve all agreed he can really hold a tune.”
According to keepers, all three alpacas have settled in well and will take on the important role of wildlife ambassadors when the zoo reopens - helping to teach children about the importance of caring for animals during daily walks around the zoo’s 36 acres of parkland.
Veronica added: “It’s been a difficult start to the year for the zoo, with the third lockdown meaning we’ve missed out on yet more vital funds from ticket sales; but we’re hoping the vote will help keep our supporters' spirits high as we count down to the day we can finally reopen - and are once again able to share our central London nature haven with visitors.”
Reliant on income from ticket sales to care for the animals and fund their global conservation efforts, months of enforced closures have put ZSL’s charity zoos under huge financial pressure. Vets and zookeepers have continued to provide the highest level of care for the animals, working throughout the lockdown. ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the two zoos, is calling on the public to help ensure they remain open by becoming a member, booking a flexi-ticket for a future visit, or donating to ZSL.