Z is for… Zoo

Welcome! Come on in. Yes, I can show you around; I’m not a keeper, but I have been studying the animals here for some time, so I can tell you a little about them. It is noisy at the moment, you’re right. We just gave them tea and biscuits after their morning quiet time, and that always leads to a lot of chatter.

These are the Agendals. If you watch closely, you’ll see that each one in the group is trying to groom a specific list of others – they’re close relatives of the chimpanzee and the bonobo, and they have a very clear social structure. The important members are those who have very short lists themselves, so they don’t have to go running around, but they appear on the lists of lots of other monkeys, so they get lots of social interaction anyway. It’s fascinating how they can carry the lists in their heads when they only use them after feeding time – they’ve got very good memories for changes to the pecking order.

And in this cage we have some Perfectionists. We only have a few, because they’re very expensive to keep – tricky to feed, for one thing, we have to buy biscuits which are organic and fairtrade and vegan, which is quite a tall order. Yes, they do look a bit like giraffes; having their heads in the clouds so often, they’ve developed very long necks. It’s a wonder that they survive in the wild, really, hunting all the time for the very best food. I suppose it goes to show that evolution is blind. Still, it’s good for the zoo to have a few, it makes the demands of the other animals seem much more reasonable!

Yes, do go in there – but try to open the door slowly, there are several baby Ministers at the moment and it’s easy to scare them. Voices are okay, but a sudden flash of light can set them shaking for hours. They’ve small, you can just see them between the leaves, but… but as I was about to say, they have a very loud cry for their size. Thankfully they only speak one at a time. You’re finding it painful? I’m not surprised, it can be quite disconcerting at first. Please, go through to the next room, it’s still noisy but not quite so bad.

Now this is the wild Boar – ah, you’ve heard of these somewhere before?

Oh, I’m sorry you can’t stay – we’re about to have a shared lunch, you know, a chance to feed with the animals… no? Perhaps another day. We’ll certainly hope to see you again!

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