Among London's concrete blocks, glass skyscrapers and near-throtting transport system is a surprising amount of wildlife. And with new displays opening at top attractions across the city, it seems this Easter is the time to go on a city safari...
Tiger Territory at London Zoo
The new £3.6m tiger enclosure, Tiger Territory, at London Zoo opens to the public today, after being visited and officially opened by Prince Phillip earlier this week. At 27,000sqft, Sumatran tigers Jae Jae and Melati's new playground is five times larger than their previous home, giving them plenty of room to play, swim, hide and seek, hunt, jump around (keepers hang meat from tall poles to encourage the pair to show off their athleticism), and hopefully get very friendly. Because Jae Jae and Melati were, we're told "matched by a global breeding programme for this critically endangered species." Ahh, the romance! With only 300 left in the wild, hopes are high that Jae Jae and Melati (one from Australia, the other from Ohio) can speak the international language of love and provide the world with some much-needed tiger cubs. Possibly in time to coincide with the birth of a certain royal baby. No pressure, pussy cats.
Meet the Otters at the London Wetland Centre
Meeting the otters is a daily event at the WWT London Wetland Centre. Yes, daily. Haven't you been yet? You really must. The Wetland Centre otters are Asian short-clawed otters, which are the
cutest smallest otters in the world. They live together in family groups, unlike most other types of otter who are solitary. They often play games to help their young develop hunting skills. You can even watch them sleep in their specially designed holt, although the Wetland Centre's website warns that these guys are very active during the day, so they're more likely to be out and about, waiting to meet you. Otter feeding times are at 11am and 2pm. So let's recap: small. otter. family. playing. Tell us again why you haven't been?
Ocean of Stars at the London Aquarium
If you need an excuse to swim by the London Aquarium this spring, perhaps the lure of their new Ocean of Stars attraction will win you over. The new zone opened just last week (18 March), showing off six unique species of star fish in a maze of tunnels and tanks. Look out for the Sunflower Starfish (it looks like its namesake, but larger), the chocolate chip starfish, and the cushion starfish, which doesn't look like starfish at all…
Sensational Butterflies at the Natural History Museum
Finally, opening on the museum's east lawn next week (29 March), in time for the Easter Holidays, is the Natural History Museum's Sensational Butterflies exhibition. Inside the tropical butterfly house, you go all a-flutter over exotic beauties from places like Belize, Costa Rica and parts of Africa and Asia. Amazingly, their chrysalises are packed in cotton wool and flown to Britain, then painstakingly glued, one-by-one, to branches in the hatchery by museum staff. Follow the museum trail and you'll learn about these insects' fascinating life cycles; you'll see hungry caterpillars hatching, to hundreds of striking butterflies and moths fluttering above your head. (Alas, they don't live long: perhaps its best that the museum only focuses on the early parts of the caterpillars/butterflies' amazing existence. We're still scarred by the brevity of the "life cycle" of our first pet goldfish.) There are also hints and tips on how to encourage butterflies into your own garden in the UK.
And don't forget springtime also brings loads of excitement to London's various brilliant city farms. Got any more tips on 'going wild' (ahem) in London as the weather warms up? Let us know in the comments below.