I’ve never been an avid Animal Rights campaigner, not because it is something I don’t believe in, but rather that it is something I probably don’t have enough passion for. In the last two years, I have visited both Chester Zoo and Yorkshire Wildlife Park and enjoyed them both thoroughly, but yesterday we took a trip to Twycross Zoo for the first time and came home feeling rather deflated and disappointed. We had wanted to visit for some time and with the recent downpours in the weather, it had been difficult to find time to get there, but with the summer sun finally deciding to make an appearance, we set off early to make the most of the day.
It took about two hours to get there and we actually arrived early, so we sat in the Himalaya centre to have a drink. The Himalaya centre houses various food stands, the shop and public conveniences and does so exquisitely. They have obviously spent a lot of money on it and it does set a precedent of high expectations to follow.
There were some good parts of the Zoo, the section dedicated to Bali and Sri Lanka which includes the Elephant habitat was wonderfully created. It tries to educate you as you walk along the guided path with replica Hindu shrines dedicated to the Elephant bodied God Ganesh, a themed ‘Village School’ and wooden bridge walkways across small streams. The actual Elephant enclosure was quite good, holding four Indian Elephants. The room they had to roam about was sufficient enough and the sandy habitat was attractive enough.
Getting up close to some of the animals, like the Giraffes and foxes also allowed seeing up close the amazing features these animals have. You could spot the patterns on the Giraffes bodies with such detail and look up in awe at their chunky heads sat upon their long yet thin necks. Regular feeding times also allowed us to see how each animal ate. It may be a small feature, but one that drew the crowds in.
However, Twycross Zoo prides itself as being one of Europe’s leading Primate Centres and although it does have a wide variety of primates, monkeys and lemurs, they only seem to have two or three of each kind rather than a large group. In Chester Zoo, we saw a huge enclosure for a large group of Chimpanzees that had plenty of room to form a hierarchy in their little society. None of that here I am afraid to say. I was horrified at just how small some of the enclosure’s were and how claustrophobic and tightly shoved together some of them were.
The animals really didn’t look very happy. Some of the monkeys just sat on small perches staring into the greater outside space where we roamed. It made me stop and think to myself what it must be like for these animals to be trapped in such small places with hundreds and thousands of human faces all peering in and children squealing and shouting at them to get their attention. Yes, I admit they are probably well looked after, well fed with access to medical teams if they get ill, but the wide open space, the chance to build up a family and live as they should be will allude them probably for the whole of their lives.
The otters were great to see, but it was apparent to see from the first instance at just how scared they all were at the hoards of people leaning over their enclosure pointing and shouting. They all stayed together in a tight knit group, and they wouldn’t go anywhere unless the whole group moved as one. The staccato movements of their heads and legs seemed unnatural and it was all because they were frightened to move. It was not a pleasant sight.
Two animals that also stood out for negative reasons were the Hyena and the Amur Leopard, both for the same reason. Their enclosures were so small for their size. The Hyena was trapped behind metal bars in a square sized concrete pen. It just lay on the ground, too hot to move probably, but with nowhere really to go. The Leopard had more room than the Hyena, but instead of roaming its small jungle-esque habitat, it preferred to stay in its den and pace back and forth in front of the large blackened window where children banged and tapped on it.
I also wouldn’t say that it was particularly child friendly a place with numerous vans and tractors driving along the small paths, with no apparent appreciation of us having to move out of their way to allow them to pass. The educational boards to describe the animals were tiny and offered little information to read to children either and with how busy the Zoo can get, it is no wonder how suddenly the atmosphere can turn into one of tension and annoyance.
I think on the whole the Zoo is a reasonable place to visit to get the chance to see some animals you wouldn’t normally ever have the chance to see like the Elephants and Giraffes, but with such appalling enclosures I wouldn’t recommend it. Zoos do attract controversy from Animal Rights groups who do not believe that animals should be locked up for our entertainment. I would say that if it is done appropriately such as Chester Zoo, where each enclosure and habitat is so big and spacious, I don’t see the harm as such. Twycross Zoo on the other hand however really does give Animal Rights groups strong evidence to fight with.