September 1, 2008

Zoo Expects ‘Keeper for a Day’ Gifts Will Be a Roaring Success

By Gareth Edwards

MUCKING out rhinos and tending to cockroaches might not be everyone's idea of a great day out.

But staff at Edinburgh Zoo are expecting hundreds of people to pay for the privilege after unveiling plans for a "keeper for a day" experience.

The public will be able to get closer than ever to some of the zoo's most popular animals, including the monkeys, penguins and chimpanzees.

They may also get the chance to feed the lions - albeit from a safe distance.

Cleaning the rhino enclosure and helping look after insects, such as cockroaches, are among the less-glamorous activities involved.

The zoo is still finalising the details of the days out, including prices, but London Zoo charges GBP 250 for a similar all- day experience, which has proved extremely popular.

The idea came after 14-year-old competition winner Alex Bruce was thrilled to get to feed his favourite animal, the Amur tiger.

Alex said: "Feeding the tiger was an incredible experience I will never forget.

"The keepers went out of their way to make it the best experience and it was.

"The tigers are so majestic and wonderful. It amazes me how much thought goes into the welfare and comfort of the animals in the zoo."

Fellow competition winner 11-year-old Lydia Woods fed the zoo's ring-tailed lemurs, joined in the famous penguin parade and went behind the scenes at the new GBP 5.65 million Budongo Trail chimpanzee enclosure.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which runs Edinburgh Zoo, said: "We get hundreds of requests from the public each year.

"Some are from those who would like to have this experience themselves, but the majority are from people who would like to purchase it as a gift for someone else.

"Based on the number of requests we receive, we think this would be extremely popular.

"It gives members of the public the chance to experience a day behind the scenes and to learn about all the different aspects involved in caring for our animals."

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.