Amazon animals storm London Zoo

Amazonian animals given a new lease of life at London Zoo

A Golden-headed Lion Tamarin lands infront of you and looks you in the eyes. Ears pricked, curiosity piqued… ‘what’s he going to do now?’, is the thought passing through both your heads. The answer, you can discover at the relaunched Rainforest Life installation at ZSL London Zoo, simulating the experience of a tropical rainforest. But worry not, the monkeys passing freely between visitors and the 800 species of plants brought in from Costa Rica won’t take any notice if left unprovoked.

Other endangered animals such as the sloth and anteater also roam around, sharing the space with birds such as the Grey-winged trumpeter. Only these creatures don’t get quite so close, observed by visitors from the upper level of the attraction, which maintains a steady 27 degrees celsius with an irrigation system ensuring the animals feel right at home. Not quite so comfy, Tony Dobbs, Senior Keeper Mammals North, with hair wet with sweat and a rosy face, explains almost without breath that “the species weren’t taken from the forests, but rather brought from zoos from various places in the world”, hastening to add there are no risks to the animals, but that no-one should feed them! “Staff at the zoo will keep a close eye on the behaviour of the animals and the visitors, and besides, they have set eating times and a balanced diet”.

The director of the zoo, David Field, hopes that with this contact people will become more conscientous and help to save tropical rainforests: “these forests are live eco-systems, home to millions of species facing extinction, but they’re disappearing rapidly”. According to Greenpeace, since 1997 somewhere in the realm of 13 thousand hectares of forests, the great majority tropical, were destroyed, the equivalent of an area the size of Greece per year.

Brazilian animals @ Rainforest Life

Just where does the Golden-headed Lion Tamarin come from? The reply is on the tip of the tongue of almost every Brazilian: from Brazil, of course. And along with the little monkey, a great number of species found in the new London Zoo attraction are native to Brazil: the Southern Tamandua, the famed tree-climbing anteater; the Two-toed sloth, one of the sleepiest of the animal kingdom; and the Emperor Tamarin, with his striking white beard, are some of the many Brazilian animals you’ll encounter up at the zoo in Regents Park. JD

By Lívia Thimotheo

Rainforest Life @ ZSL London Zoo
Now open, Regents Park, £15-19
ZSL.ORG • 020 7722 3333

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