Trying to connect with people online in the same way as in-person has been one of the trickiest challenges for many businesses during the pandemic – particularly zoos.
However, London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo have joined forces to create the perfect virtual experience for kids by reading bedtime stories as staff sit amongst the animals.
Not only will children be able to hear magical tales and experience the majestic nature of different species as they drift off to sleep, the characters in the stories will match the animals on-camera.
Our favourite has to be the classic The Tiger who came to Tea, told in the company of the stunning Sumatran tigers Asim and Gaysha at London Zoo.
In addition to this, David Walliams’ kids book The Slightly Annoying Elephant will be read against the backdrop of Whipsnade Zoo’s Centre for Elephant Care.
McFly star turned children’s author Tom Fletcher is also on the line-up with There’s a Dragon in my Book, to be read alongside Ganas the Komodo dragon at London Zoo.
The Tails from the Zoo initiative – which kickstarted last Saturday and runs until February 21 – is available to watch on the zoos’ Facebook pages every Saturday and Sunday at 6.30pm.
Speaking about the bedtime stories, zookeeper Sam Aberdeen said the idea came about as lockdown number three hit in a bid to keep young people connected with wildlife.
Sam said: “We came up with the idea because lots of us have our own children who love to listen to our own tales from the zoo.
“It’s a tough time for the zoo at the moment, as it is for so many others, and this felt like a fun way to reach out to all the children we miss seeing here so much.
“We have loved doing it, and we hope children will enjoy hearing their favourite stories and seeing the real animals at the same time.”
Sam added: “And, of course, we hope it might spur people who can, to donate a little bit too to help secure the zoos’ future.”
With no choice but to follow government guidelines and close their doors to the public, the zoos have been fighting to protect their animals.
The two sister organisations care for over 20,000 creatures between them, and are now facing huge financial pressures to survive.
Not only would permanent closure result in a vast number of job losses, it would also be devastating for the animals as captive-bred carnivores have little success of surviving in the wild as they have not developed the skills needed for their natural habitats.
Director of Engagement and Fundraising, James Wren, believes that by continuing their work online they can showcase how important it is that they protect thousands of threatened species.
James said: “With our gates currently closed to the public – but life going on behind the scenes caring for our animals – the zookeepers have found a great way to bring our zoos to our youngest supporters and hopefully give parents up and down the country a little break at bedtime too!”