Film: BFI London Film Festival Guide


Alternative Animal Adventures for Zoo Lovers Day

Image © Howletts, the Aspinall Wild Animal Park via Facebook

Seeing exotic animals is always an exciting experience, and the perfect family day out at any age. Traditionally a trip to the zoo is the one-stop experience for exotic animal lovers, however some people question the ethics of caging animals for the entertainment of the public. To celebrate zoo lover’s day, we’re looking at conservational zoos and animal sanctuaries, where you can see wild animals within the safety of a controlled environment, whilst knowing your money is helping to bring animals back from the brink of extinction, and aiding research and development into their care and welfare.

Image credit: Wild Futures via Facebook 
The Monkey Sanctuary
Looe, Cornwall
Alarmingly, there are at least 5000 privately owned primates here in the UK. Whilst UK law doesn’t prohibit the keeping of primates as pets, lack of recognised care standards, as well as knowledge regarding species, diet, social needs and vet expertise results in seriously suffering pet primates. Since 2001 The Monkey Sanctuary has rescued over 50 monkeys, rehabilitated their bad behaviours and introduced them into social groups of their own monkey-kind. They guarantee a home for life for every monkey and are equipped with an expert team who know exactly what each monkey needs to get better. The welfare of the rescued monkeys is their number one priority at the sanctuary, but there’s no reason you can’t go and have a look at their thriving 40 monkey residents! Meet Capuchin monkeys, the Woolly monkeys, Barbary Macaques and the Marmosets. Some of the residents are in rehabilitation after their sad starts to life, however there are plenty of primates to have a look at, and if you fall in love you have the opportunity to adopt a monkey, supporting the amazing work they do. 

Image credit: Crocodiles of the World via Facebook 
Crocodiles of the World 
Brize Norton, Oxfordshire 
The UK’s only crocodile zoo is home to a range of reptiles, snakes, mammals, birds and of course… alligators and crocodiles. With over 150 crocs here in Oxfordshire you can see 17 of the world’s 24 species of crocodiles, alligators and caiman, including the critically endangered Cuban and Siamese crocodiles and the terrifying Saltwater crocs. This conservational zoo is determined to create public understanding of these otherwise ‘deadly’ animals; develop research relating to endangered species and breeding in conservation; and of course, allow people to experience these exotic animals at close proximity, sparking visitor interest and curiosity as well as dispelling dangerous myths about these fascinating animals. As a registered charity they strive to improve the welfare of crocodilians and their friends and ensure that we don’t lose some species’ forever. Feeding time at the zoo is no laughing matter at this exotic experience, and you can see a 1000kg reptile (the Saltwater crocodile) be fed their daily diet of reptiles, birds and mammals. For a much more hands-on experience browse a variety of keeper experiences, including a thrilling opportunity to help care for their resident Komodo Dragon- Batu! 

Image credit: Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve via Facebook 
Howletts & Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve 
The Aspinall Foundation has brought unique and exotic animals to the Kentish countryside, commandeering a combined 690 acres of land across Howletts and Port Lympne parks. They are a charity committed to conservation, utilising captive breeding, education and reintroduction into the wild of hundreds of animal species. During the past few years they have reintroduced 8 black rhino, 49 Javan langurs, 9 Javan gibbons, 11 European bison and over 60 western lowland gorillas back into their natural habitat, and their mission is to halt extinction of endangered species. It’s founder, John Aspinall, has been breeding and reintroducing gorillas back into the wild since the 1970s. Their parks create a natural environment for breeding, whilst also educating and informing people about animal welfare and how we can all help to protect animals in their natural environments. The 600-acre Port Lympne is home to Kent’s only Rotschild giraffe, spectacles bears, western lowland gorillas, big cats, rhino and so many more, whilst Howletts is home to the UK’s largest herd of 
African elephants and Kent’s only giant anteaters. A great day-out is to be had at each, and both offer activities such as safari tours and animal feeding time. Want an even wilder animal experience? The hotel at Port Lympne offers tiger, lion and rhino lodges – where you can relax in ultimate luxury accommodation with these wild animals staring in through only a pane of glass. 

Image credit: The Donkey Sanctuary via Facebook 
The Donkey Sanctuary
Sidmouth, Belfast, Birmingham, Derbyshire, Ivybridge, Leeds, Manchester
With 10 sanctuaries over the UK and Europe, The Donkey Sanctuary cares for over 6,000 donkeys and in its work over 35 countries they estimate they’ve helped over 1.8 million donkeys worldwide. Donkeys are used for labour across the world, and this gives rise to thousands of opportunities for abuse in donkeys and mules alike. They are committed to rehabilitate and rehome damaged donkeys and offer a safe forever-home for the animals they can’t relocate. Their veterinary programmes treat sick donkeys as well as training vets in the UK and abroad, and their research into donkey care and welfare is improving the lives of so many donkeys across the world. To support their great work whilst filling a family day out, The Donkey Sanctuaries offer open visiting hours and special donkey experiences such as Junior Vet Day for 11-15-year-old aspiring veterinarians. A standard visit boasts free parking and admission; however, the group receive no government funding and therefore happily accept any donations. Ready to adopt? You’ll be able to visit your adopted donkey for free, as often as you like, safe in the knowledge that it’s receiving quality care.