The announcement of London Zoo’s latest project has got us thinking!
Here, my friend and colleague, Anna Wade, reviews the zoo’s plans to take visitors ‘on safari’. See what you think!
“The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has recently announced plans to build a “safari camp” next to the new Asiatic lion enclosure at London Zoo. The zoo has received planning permission to build nine cabins for visitors to stay overnight, on the perimeter of the new enclosure, which is set to open to the public in 2016. Let’s take a closer look at these new plans:
ZSL has stated that the cost of building the enclosure will be £5,200,000. I’ll repeat that: £5,200,000. Surely this sum would be better spent on efforts to save wild lion populations in India? According to the ZSL annual report, the Society’s entire annual spend on conservation programmes in 2014 was £6,030,000. In other words, the equivalent of 86% of ZSL’s annual spend on conservation programmes has been spent on an enclosure currently set to house three female Asiatic lions.
At that cost, the enclosure must surely be a reasonable size, right? Well, at 2,500sqm (0.6 acres), maybe not. Plans for the nine cabins indicate that each will be 167sqm, covering a total of 1503sqm (0.4 acres) with further space allocated for a communal garden. It is a sad irony that the visitors, who get to stay a night or two at the zoo, may end up having more space than the animals who will spend their entire lives there.
This is not the first time London Zoo has offered visitors the opportunity to stay after hours. Last year, “Zoo Lates” (now re-branded as “Sunset Safaris”) received significant criticism after reports surfaced of inappropriate behaviour from visitors, which led to questions over the zoo’s ability to safeguard animal welfare. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/18/london-zoo-party-night-animal-welfare
London Zoo correctly states that the wild population of Asiatic lions is in peril. However, with the chances of release to the wild for these animals or their progeny being virtually zero, protection of the remaining wild Asiatic lion population is paramount to the continued survival of this species in its natural habitat: in my view, keeping lions at London Zoo will not ensure this outcome. Furthermore, some might regard the construction of visitor accommodation in the zoo is little more than a gimmick at the expense of much needed larger enclosures for the animals and the application of resources towards keeping Asiatic lions in the wild – where they belong.
ZSL trustee report can be found at: http://www.zsl.org/sites/default/files/media/2015-07/Financial%20Report%202014%20-%20Final%20for%20print%20-%20with%20signatures.pdf“