'King Newt' Ken to marry at the reptile house

Ken Livingstone and wife-to-be Emma Beal are to say their vows among the wallabies and emus of London Zoo, the capital's former mayor has revealed.

Dubbed "King Newt" because of his love of the amphibious creatures, Livingstone has chosen to get married in the zoo's Mappin Pavilion, which is next to the reptile house. "We have been looking to get married for years," Mr Livingstone said yesterday. "We decided this seems to be the ideal period."

Guests will be allowed to explore the zoo free of charge following the ceremony. "A wedding can be quite boring for young kids. But they can go and look at the animals. I know the place – I just like it," said Mr Livingstone. He is known for his love of animals and has a pet chameleon called Harry. His first job application was for a position as a zookeeper, although he was unsuccessful. He went on to become vice-president of the Zoological Society.

As mayor, Mr Livingstone introduced free visits to London Zoo for schoolchildren. He has said that, had he not been a politician, he would have "loved to have been David Attenborough". Former chief of staff at City Hall Simon Fletcher will be best man at the ceremony next month.

Mr Livingstone and long-term partner Ms Beal first met in 1996 when he was a food critic and she a secretary at the London Evening Standard. The couple have two children together and he has three others.