Bunhill: London Zoo

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The Independent Online
FUNNY how the animals people take a shine to can be so revealing. Witness the latest efforts of London Zoo to raise funds.

Its animal sponsorship scheme recently clocked up another success with the decision of the media buyers, the London Media Group, to sponsor Fang the black mamba, one of deadliest snakes in the zoo. 'I can't imagine why, but they simply fell madly in love with him,' says a zoo spokesman.

It's the same story when it comes to other money-raising activities, where no corner of the zoo is being left undisturbed in the search for money-making ventures. This week sees the addition of three more venues for corporate entertaining.

Existing locales such as the Reptile House are already popular with accountants and advertising executives (surprise, surprise). The Insect House is another favoured corporate choice (a wow place for the Rentokil Christmas party presumably). And cocktails with the elephants are apparently one of the biggest hits of all.

But now party-goers can also choose to barbecue on the Lion Terraces, dodge the droppings in the Tropical Bird House or coo at the cuddly critters in the Small Mammals exhibit.

It is, of course, tempting fate. At a recent extravaganza for an advertising company, a mature rhino expressed his gratitude for the guests' contribution to his survival by means of copious amounts of urine, uniformly delivered across the assembled glitterati.

Nevertheless, it says more about you than cash ever can. 'We always find that lawyers who've had a few drinks become convinced they can converse with the animals,' observes one handler. There are no reports of what replies they receive.

And it isn't only the grey-suited brigade who pick the zoo to let down their remaining hair. Charities, like the wonderfully named Gonad Productions, which throws a ball (geddit?) each year for disadvantaged children, apparently regularly choose the zoo as a venue.

(Photograph omitted)