Parenting: Animal magic

GET behind bars at Edinburgh Zoo

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a zoo keeper? I took my animal-mad eldest daughter Lucy to experience a couple of Edinburgh Zoo’s magic moment encounters, which involve spending half an hour with your creature of choice, from cuddly penguins to creepy crawlies.

We met Erika, our guide for the day, at the lemur enclosure where the fun began as Lucy was ushered inside so she could see the lemurs up close. Careful not to step on their tails as they jumped around beside her, Lucy placed some fruit on branches and scattered their lunch around for them while Erika enlightened the rest of us with lots of educational facts about their habitat and breeding programme. Did you know Sclater’s black lemurs (Eulemur flavifrons), are the only primates to have blue eyes? And that they are nearly extinct in the wild? Erika then asked if we had any questions; youngest daughter piped up: “When can we see the pandas?”

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Next up was the owl enclosure. Erika brought out a sleepy, very cute tawny owl called Baxter who perched on Lucy’s leather-clad arm.We watched in awe as he flew silently to a tree and then back to Erika. Then it was Elmo’s turn. The white-faced scops owl, smaller than Baxter, was quite a character, proudly puffing out his feathers as he sat on Lucy’s arm, then apparently turning shy, almost disappearing into himself when he saw the small audience that had gathered.

After lunch the kids were happy to chill in the education centre and meet the creepy crawlies, which everyone, apart from me, was looking forward to. A small python unravelled itself to sit on Lucy’s lap. Then out came a giant stick insect followed by cockroaches.

Erika is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about the animals she works with and has a true love and respect for them which really rubbed off on us; I even found myself touching the cockroach and not with the sole of my shoe!

Dylan the armadillo was a big hit with Oliver (middle child). After sleepily unfolding himself from a tight ball, he scuttled around sniffing at our feet, stopping only to pee on mine.

Lucy’s last encounter was with a couple of colourful lorikeets before we finally joined the queue for the pandas with a very excited youngest child bouncing around in anticipation. And yes, they were all we’d hoped for but when asked to name her favourite, she plumped for 
the cockroach.

Magic Moment experiences start from £50-£70 for a 30-minute encounter. The full-day Keeper Experience costs £250. Most Magic Moments are suitable for adults and children aged 12 and older (although children must be accompanied by a supervising adult). Keeper Experiences are for adults and those aged 16 years and above. To book, contact [email protected] or tel: 0131-314 0349.