London Zoo calls time on park's football fest

Proposal for World Cup jamboree in Regent's Park scrapped after zoo staff raise animal welfare concerns
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The Independent Online

It seems like a great idea, cheering on this summer's World Cup on a giant screen in a park with beer galore and 19,999 other roaring fans – but not if you're a gorilla. Or a lion. Or an anteater. Or a squirrel monkey. Or a penguin or a macaw, for that matter.

The denizens of London Zoo, according to zoo staff, will not take kindly to the three-week giant World Cup-watching football party which has been planned for Regent's Park – right next to the zoo grounds.

The jamboree is one of seven proposed by Fifa, the international football federation, in various cities to follow football events in South Africa in June and July.

Taking place in Berlin, Paris, London, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Rome and Sydney, as well as the nine South Africa host cities, the official "Fifa Fan Fests" will offer free entry to 20,000 spectators, and present all 64 matches live on giant screens with huge loudspeakers, from 11 June to 11 July.

If you can't get to South Africa it seems an ideal and exciting way of following football's greatest event – unless you're an animal in London Zoo, which is directly adjacent to the proposed Regent's Park Fifa Fanzone, for 400 yards of its boundary fence.

Zoo staff think the likely noise levels will cause the animals serious disturbance, and the director of the Zoological Society of London, Ralph Armond, has objected to the whole event in a long letter to the London Borough of Camden, the licensing authority. "We believe that 24 days of exceptional noise adjacent to the zoo could create a serious animal welfare issue," he writes.

He says that according to an expert in noise studies, Adrian Fourcin, an emeritus professor at University College London, a football crowd of 20,000 will produce a noise level of around 100 decibels, with 110 decibels in "moments of special interest", and that the noise level in London Zoo would be around 30 decibels greater than normal.

"Our own research on the gorillas at London Zoo shows that when we have busy days and a generally higher decibel level from the public, the behaviour of our gorillas is adversely affected," he writes. "Studies show that animals in the wild respond by moving away from noisy environments. Clearly this is not an option for animals in the zoo."

He adds that animals which rely on acoustic communication for social behaviour could easily be adversely affected by additional noise, and with louder noise exposure there could be some permanent damage to them. "The scale of this event is way beyond anything we have experienced before and its location could not be closer to the zoo (literally metres away from the penguins, macaws, anteaters, lions, squirrel monkeys and Blackburn Pavilion for birds)."

However, last night it became clear that the Greater London Authority, the organisers, were having second thoughts about the Fan Fest.

A spokesman said: "We were considering Regent's Park as a possible location for a Fan Fest, but legitimate concerns highlighted by our consultation raised doubts about the commercial viability of the plan to hold it there and we are now focusing on the other options available."