It was very well signposted on the A444 about 4.8km off the A42/M42. We were anticipating cars queuing to get in but I guess by the time we arrived, most people were already in. We’d to park quite a distant away on a very dusty carpark. Twycross Zoo is an 80-acre zoo near the village of Twycross in Leicestershire. The zoo was founded in 1963 by Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans and claimed to have the largest collections of monkeys and apes in the world. Because of this, the zoo re-launched itself in 2006 as "Twycross Zoo - The World Primate Centre." And yes there were lots of them :-). With over 1000 animals from over 200 species, it was hard to decide where to start. At first, we followed the gorilla trail where we were supposed to start with the smallest, the gibbons, and moving up past the orang utans, chimpanzees, bonobos and ending with the largest primates, the gorillas. But we never did managed to follow the trail because there was always something else that caught our attention.I kicked myself for not taking any photographs of UK's only group of breeding bonobos, the rare pygmy chimpanzees. We must have seen them but in some instances it was very difficult to take photographs through thick Perspex walls. There was a large collection of chimpanzees, some of whom were featured in the television commercials for PG Tips tea. But at the moment they looked so bored watching the visitors watching them. I think the heat was also getting to them.
The silverback male gorillas, orang utans and siamangs have their own closed compounds. Signs were all over the place informing visitors not to bang on the Perspex walls. We lost count the number of times people doing exactly that. Sometimes I do wonder which ones were the animals. I think we had seen Pygmy Marmosets – the smallest monkeys in the world – as well as a variety of lemurs, the timid Marmoset, tamarind, noisy howler monkey, tree-leaping spider monkey, Humboldt's Woolly monkey, the Pale-headed Saki monkey, chattering Capuchins, Allen’s Swamp monkey, guenons, roloway, Diana monkey, L’Hoests monkey, colobus, leaf monkeys, langurs and agile gibbons. Natural-born performers, they often put on a show for their human cousins (!), parading about their cages, swinging on the hoops and ropes, skittering about the foliage and our favourite pose as seen below.
As I mentioned before, we never managed to follow the trail especially when we came across this enclosure full of Black-tailed Prairie Marmots. In the Western part of the USA they were considered a pest!!! In the past, prairie dogs were subjected to extermination campaigns, due to their burrowing activities and their feeding habitats. This was because they dig and destroy fields and compete for food with livestock. How could something this cute be a pest??? Twycross Zoo also holds a diverse collection of other animals, many of them threatened species. They include the Amur leopard, the rarest big cat in the world with only 30–40 animals left in the wild. There was also Dholes, Bactrian camels and the ugliest looking bird that I had ever seen, the endangered Abyssinian ground hornbill.We came across a large crowd being entertained by a group of very playful Small-Clawed Otters. They were having fun in the pond, chasing each other, swimming and sun-bathing. The water looked so inviting that I wouldn’t mind joining them. Again, there were signs asking people not to throw dummies in the pond. And guess what? We saw one with a dummy dangling in its mouth. Off course, it looked funny but it was very dangerous for the otter. As we continued on, we came across one of the latest exhibit which was opened in 2010. It was the Uda Walawe elephant walkway, a Sri Lankan themed trail and bridge over UK's largest elephant bathing pool. We enjoyed unobscured views of the elephants having a sand-bath among standing dead trees. There was a shrine nearby dedicated to Ganesh, the Hindu Elephant God. Along the trail, we came across a wooden hut with melodious Indian tunes emanating from it. From here, we strolled along covered timber walkways, wooden walls and thatched roofs. This was the Mary Brancker Waterways and Bornean Longhouse opened in July 2007. It featured a walk-through exhibit with waterfowl, Bornean birds and turtles. There were panel displays explaining how Borneo’s aboriginal peoples live in traditional longhouses. Traditional tunes serenades the visitors as they walked through the longhouse. The pathway took us through a sequence of exotic bird and animal exhibits immersed in reed beds and landscaped aquatic gardens, supposed to mimic the Bornean rainforests. We came face to face with brightly coloured egrets, ibis, storks and cranes. But we also encountered a Common Pochard, Moorhens and Chilean flamingos. What I enjoyed most was putting my hands out to feel the rain falling from the thatched roof. Sigh…how I missed my grandma’s house.
After we exited the rainforest, we could feel the excitement vibrating in the air. Huge crowds were surrounding a huge enclosure. It was feeding time for the Patagonian sea lions. Somehow I managed to squeeze through and got the front seat. Yaay… There were 2 sea lions and they were huge. The keeper would throw the fish one at a time at different parts of the pool and they would be chasing it. When you looked at them, you would not believe how agile they were. They were well trained and kept the crowd entertained. The children enjoyed it very much especially when they slide across a slab of stone in the middle of the pond to get to the fish. It was fascinating to see him waiting patiently for the fish to be thrown to him and he just opened his mouth to catch them. A thunderous applause to a wonderful performer. Suddenly everyone rushed towards the nearby penguin enclosure. It was their turn to be fed. We didn’t join them and had a picnic on one of the benches. While having our lunch, we plotted our next animal to target. Since the feeding time was over and the crowd had dispersed, we went to see the Humboldt Penguin. These comical penguins were waddling around with abandon and delighting us as they dive and swim in their pool. We looked at more primates in the World of Small Monkeys. A keeper showed us a few babies that were born earlier during the day. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to photograph these collection of monkeys. It was quite dark in the house and we don’t want to frighten these sensitive animals with our flashguns. Outside, we came across one of my favourite animal, the inquisitive and comical Meerkats. At first, we saw all of them playing and weaving about in their enclosure. Suddenly, one of them ran up the the platform and did the famous watchdog pose. It was just beautiful. We followed the rabbit trail which should lead us to the Pets at Twycross, Little Explorers, Children's Adventure Playground and the Train Station. Before that we came across the largest guinea pig in the world, the Capybara, having a meal. We saw them earlier but they were having a siesta. Before reaching the Pets Corner, we met a pack of very woolly alpacas and shaggy donkeys. The alpacas trotted closer when they saw us nearing their pens. We didn’t want them to get too close because it would be difficult to get a good photograph. And we don’t want to be spat at :-0 There was an aviary nearby but you can only see them if you take a ride on the miniature train. Since there was a very long queue for the train, we decided to forego it. And what was the point of whizzing through an aviary??? It would be a nightmare for us as photographers. But we did manage to see this beautiful Zebra finch, a common weaver finch from Central Australia.
Then it was time to head home. We had spent about 4 hours here. As we were leaving we saw the latest addition to the zoo, a pair of snow leopards. We had to go into the Himalaya which had good views of these spectacular animals in their Himalayan mountain enclosure.
We browsed around the new £11 million visitor centre opened in May 2010. This was an eco-friendly building containing a gift shop, cafeteria and information about the zoo's conservation work. We didn’t have time to check the later because we were already very tired. I purchased a souvenir before we joined the long queues exiting this wonderful place. Would we come again? Most probably no. It was quite expensive. We were quite surprised that we weren’t ask at the ticket counter whether we want to make a gift donation. They just assumed that everyone wanted to do so. Below was a guinea pig which reminded me of our lovely Puyi, sadly departed but never forgotten.