ARCHIVE: Amended from Issue 2, January 1995
LONDON ZOO IS a good place to go if you want to look at animals. But then so are the Houses of Parliament or any tube train in the rush hour.
A visit to the zoo always raises suspicions that the animals are also looking at us.
Recently a crowd of stunned penguins had to be revived after witnessing (true event:) a transvestite and his companion in a head-to-toe rabbit outfit.
It should come as no surprise that lions and tigers, in their grassy knolls, are whispering into recording machines every little twitch of human behaviour. “The self-absorbed humans seem unaware of our presence as they eat pizzas and shout at eachother…”
The development of more natural enclosures leads to further logical conclusions. They are so rarely seen by zoo visitors that the obvious next step would be to leave them in the faraway countries where they were captured. Zoos with completely empty cages except for some exotic plant life will still flourish. Zoo keepers can still walk around with buckets of ‘elephant poo’, except that it will be horse poo – no-one will notice. They can still slap moist slabs of meat into the lion enclosure. They will be retrieved after the visitors have gone and the zoo employees can have their barbecue. They will also have to occasionally rustle some leaves in the enclosures and let out an assortment of howls and whoops to complete the deception.
Zoos without animals. This concept is already taking shape. Particularly in the insect and reptile houses.
The reptile house presents that revelation that reptiles are, in fact, just dead logs. Completely empty tanks labelled ‘Poisonous sabre-toothed monkey-eating gila monster’ are invariably misleading but a great source of work for struggling fiction writers.
And even when there is an exotic species to view, their thunder is always stolen by the cheeky sparrow who hops into the cage for a morsel and then flies away before an adoring group of grannies.
The most popular exhibits (when visible) are the apes and monkeys. Because they are most like ourselves. Why not dispense with the expense (and cruelty) of importing these primates and simply have cages with mirrors in which we can gaze at ourselves? The obvious problem with this plan is the difficulty in capturing mirrors from their natural habitat – tailor’s shops. Many a stealthy expedition into this stark wilderness has been scuppered by wild scissor and tape measure-wielding savages threatening to measure inside legs and deface perfectly good jackets with chalk.
People just don’t seem to enjoy animals at the zoo. Where do you see such joy and amazement as on a tube station platform with crowds transfixed by the mice running about on the rails? Perhaps London Zoo should collaborate with London Underground and proved a selection of more exotic animals to parade up and down the railway lines between trains.
And so, we return to the observation that we are merely animals observing eachother on trains. With the drawback that the truly enthusiastic wildlife fanatic will be regularly beaten up on the last train home to Epping on Saturday nights.