Once upon a time there were two wonderful zoos full of wonderful animals, and zookeepers who worked tirelessly to care for them and teach their visitors all about wildlife.
Then an unwelcome villain forced the zoos to close their doors…so the heroic zookeepers found a way to help their animals and bring the zoo to the people.
Zookeepers at ZSL Whipsnade and London Zoos have swapped their brooms for books to launch a series of virtual bedtime stories – in a bid to keep their beloved animals in touch with their youngest fans during lockdown.
The Tails from the Zoo will be available to watch online on Whipsnade Zoo's Facebook page each weekend from Saturday, January 16, until Sunday, February 21, with a different animal-inspired story told from the two zoos’ most popular exhibits every Saturday and Sunday evening.
Featuring children’s classics such as The Tiger who came to Tea, told in the company of Sumatran tigers Asim and Gaysha, animals are at the heart of each storytelling session that have been specially chosen to keep the charity zoos’ younger fans entertained through this lockdown.
The literary line-up also includes newer favourites such as David Walliams’ The Slightly Annoying Elephant read from Whipsnade Zoo’s Centre for Elephant Care.
Zookeeper Sam Aberdeen said: “We came up with the idea because lots of us have our own children who love to listen to our own tales from the zoo.
"It’s a tough time for the zoo at the moment – as it is for so many others – and this felt like a fun way to reach out to all the children we miss seeing here so much.
"We have loved doing it, and we hope children will enjoy hearing their favourite stories and seeing the real animals at the same time.
"And, of course, we hope it might spur people who can, to donate a little bit too to help secure the zoos’ future.”
Tails from the Zoo will be shared via the Zoos’ Facebook pages at 6:30pm, kicking off this Saturday with Julia Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday – read by zookeeper Nick Burnham and attentively listened to by Yoda the white-cheeked gibbon.
ZSL’s director of engagement and fundraising, James Wren added: “As well as caring for and protecting thousands of threatened species, ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos are where families come to enjoy our animals and be inspired by the wonders of the animal kingdom.
"With our gates currently closed to the public – but life going on behind the scenes caring for our animals, the zookeepers have found a great way to bring our zoos to our youngest supporters - and hopefully give parents up and down the country a little break at bedtime too!"
Visitors to ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoo provide the core and vital income for international conservation charity, ZSL.
Closed for the third time in a year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but with more than 20,000 animals to care for, the charity is facing huge financial pressures and needs the public’s help to survive. To make a donation click here.