Katy Holland: Pull on your wellies, we're off to clean the penguin pool
Are we there yet? Kids can try being a zookeeper for a day
Sunday 09 October 2011
Ricky the rockhopper penguin may be a member of an endangered species, but he is becoming something of a celebrity at London Zoo. Having just spent the morning at the zoo myself, I can vouch for the fact that this yellow-browed limelight-seeker can really draw the crowds.
But Ricky is doing much more than providing photo opportunities for his adoring fans. He's a real success story for the zoo, which is on a serious mission to make its customers – particularly the younger ones – aware of urgent conservation issues.
The Zoological Society of London has stepped up its campaigning work in world wildlife and habitat protection in recent years (take, for example, it's current fundraising efforts to save the Sumatran tiger), and good old Ricky provides a friendly face for an important message.
Children are able to follow Ricky on Facebook, they can hear him sing with a rock band, and now they can even help look after him by becoming a Junior Keeper For a Day.
The latter programme has to be one of the best ways to get children involved and educated in all things connected with wildlife. These special experience days, which were introduced after the roaring success of the zoo's adult Keeper for the Day schemes, mean that children aged between 11 and 15 years can now learn, first-hand, what really goes on behind the scenes at Regent's Park.
The animals and activities that are covered in the programme vary according to the zoo's schedule. But to give you a flavour of what to expect, I joined an adults' group, where I fed two Sumatran tigers, made a giraffe's bed, threw live worms into a pool of piranhas, washed out the penguin pool, cuddled a lemur, and got covered in squashed banana by a very playful golden lion tamarin.
The experience is an expensive one – at £170, it is not something you'd sign the kids up for lightly. But if your child is a very keen animal lover, or has expressed a real interest in becoming a vet or a zookeeper, I would fully recommend it.
A word of warning, however: the places on this programme are very limited and get booked up quickly – 2011 is now pretty much a sell out – but from tomorrow, the zoo will be taking bookings for dates in 2012.
To find out more about the scheme, go to zsl.org.keeperforaday or call 0844 2251826 for details, and your children could soon be doing their bit – while getting down and dirty with some of the biggest stars of the animal kingdom.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 Saudi Muslim cleric claims the Earth is 'stationary' and the sun rotates around it
Thailand tourism video Love En Route criticised for featuring Instagram stalker
The Atlas of Beauty: Photographer travels around the world to capture cultural diversity through stunning portraits of women
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
Chief executive of Malaysia Airlines: The toughest job in travel?
The 10 Best hiking boots
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
£12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...
£23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...
£26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...
£18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...