The ZSL London Zoo is the oldest scientific zoo, having opened in 1828. In recent decades it has become increasingly difficulty for zoos to maintain positive PR. They have come under attack for their treatment of animals – there is a lack of empathy for anyone who puts a wild animal in a cage. Yet many of these animals were never wild – they are the offspring of often generations of domesticated cousins of their wild counterparts who wouldn’t survive five minutes outside of Central London. Furthermore, their presence in London helps educate – it wasn’t until a visit to the zoo that I even know there was an animal called the African Hunting Dog. The worrying endangerment of many species can really be hammered home in their presence, as well as issues concerning the destruction of habitats across the globe by the hands if humans.
The zoo is a research, conservation and education centre. The exhibiting of animals is a small, albeit crucial part of what they do. By having a handful of animals in cages, they can achieve great things working with those in the wild, through teaching the masses, and collecting ticket revenue. They do ever-increasingly important work, which is often overlooked.
As with so many other institutions trying to keep their head above the rest, the ZSL London Zoo has adopted art as another limb via which to reach new audiences and spread its work. Naturally, a wildlife photography exhibition is the way to do that.
In the fourth such annual prize, entrants from both the junior and adult categories are displayed on large boards in the entrance to the zoo. The images are bold, striking and at moments, extremely tender – and being set within spitting distance of the camels and squawking distance of the flamingos, it’s the perfect environment to admire the works. The show highlights what is so magical about wildlife photography – the vibrancy is awe-inspiring -when you look at the images and think of the breadth of species of animals and environments they live in, you realise how insignificant everything becomes and how beautiful our planet we share is. The other mesmerising aspect is the lengths the photographers have gone – whether its submerging themselves in jellyfish infested waters, or lying in the freezing artic snow for hours waiting to capture the perfect sunset shot – these people have real dedication to their craft and the passion for their subject matter is always at the forefront – their amazement is instantly infectious.
The exhibition’s top wildlife photographs were chosen by a panel of judges including ZSL Honorary Conservation Fellow and television presenter Kate Humble, and renowned ornithologist Bill Oddie. But we wont spoil the winner for you yet.
The ZSL Animal Photography Prize Exhibition is free with every standard admission ticket to ZSL London Zoo. With more than 17,000 incredible animals to see and a packed schedule of brilliant talks and demonstrations, ZSL London Zoo makes the perfect spring day out – but hurry as the exhibition finishes at the end of February.
Until the 28 February – for more details visit the ZSL website.