Monkeying around at Zoo Lates

by Carmen Allan-Petale

Zoo Lates was a great opportunity to see the zoo at night time with no children in sight and a glass (or rather, plastic cup) of wine in hand. No offence to parents but sometimes it’s nice to walk around an area that’s normally crawling with children, without having to detour around prams and screaming toddlers.

Zoo Lates happens every Friday in June and July at ZSL London Zoo and as well as having a chance to see all the animals you can during normal hours, the zoo puts on loads of free entertainment. There’s burlesque shows, stand up comedy, a silent disco and jazz bands.

There’s a lot of food on offer as well, including hog roast, Vietnamese food, churros and crepes. Dave went for the boerewors burger from a South African van which sold ostrich, wild boar and biltong burgers. I opted for a gluten-free savoury Mediterranean-style crepe filled with feta, olives, spinach and tomato chutney.

Dave chows down on a boerewors burger

Of course, for the party to really kick off, it helped that the food could be washed down with beverages bought from a range of bars including a Pimm’s, champagne and beer tent.

We started in the African section and saw the giraffes frolicking (watch the video to take a look), the meercats playing and encountered an okapi for the first time. Okapis are like a cross between a horse and a zebra – I’d never even heard of them before.

I meet an okapi for the first time

Next we headed to the rainforest building where animals moved freely around you, meaning the monkeys were jumping over your head and tree ant eaters were climbing up trunks nearby. (See the video to take a look at what a tree ant eater looks like.)

A warthog – an animal I have a fear of after one nearly chomped my hand off in Zimbabwe when I was little!

In the butterfly tent we saw the biggest moths in the world which were the size of dinner plates, as well as bright neon blue butterflies that flittered about you and even landed on your coat when they were brave enough. You had to check yourself before you left the tent to make sure they weren’t still sitting on you.

A meercat eyes his visitors

But by far the most amazing experience we had the whole evening was watching a giant python eating a chicken. It wasn’t a live chicken but it was still impressive. It was the stuff of nightmares. Unfortunately our camera died so we couldn’t get any footage but take a look at this YouTube video to get an idea of what it was like.

A rockhopper penguin, not unlike those seen in the film ‘Happy Feet’

It was no wonder that the next morning on the train when a caterpillar fell out of my hair I jumped a mile.

Take a look at our video from Zoo Lates here.

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