Let us discover ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo’

Tuesday: The Secret Life of the Zoo; (Channel 4, 8pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Monday, 16th August 2021, 5:00 pm

It has been six years since we were first charmed, intrigued and entertained by the furry, winged and slimy creatures at Chester Zoo.

Since then, viewers have fallen in love with not only the inhabitants at the famous zoo, but also the remarkable staff whose job it is to care for them.

Chester Zoo first opened 80 years ago and is now one of the UK’s largest zoos. It is home to more than 70 species of mammals, 155 species of birds and 9,000 animals in total. It has also become the most visited wildlife attraction in Britain, with more than two million visitors per year.

Red River Hog Confetti

Among the numerous attractions which make Chester Zoo special are the chimpanzee breeding centre, rhino reserve, tropical realm and aquarium.

When The Secret Life of the Zoo launched in 2016, head of programmes at production company Blast! Nick Hornby said he had a specific approach in mind for the show, different to other fly-on-the-wall programmes: “We wanted the animals to be the protagonists and to be able to tell the story from their perspective, which meant not having the bars of cages in shot,” he said.

And what a success the programme has proved to be, with the arrival of giant otter couple Icana and Tarubu’s new pups, the great escape of four Sumatran orangutans from their new enclosure, and a penguin romance among the countless memorable moments lapped up by viewers.

Nevertheless, The Secret Life of the Zoo has also faced some criticism, with one reviewer saying it was “not as interesting as proper in-the-wild natural history, because it’s basically Big Brother, rather than the real world. But it’s easier – and much cheaper – to make.”

On the whole though, TSLOTZ is generally praised for chronicling Chester Zoo’s conservation work, as well as showing us the dedication of the army of Dr Doolittles who genuinely enjoy their jobs and have such special bonds with the animals.

The new 10th series kicked off last week, as we found out if unusual-looking Malayan tapiers Margery and Betong were expecting a new arrival.

Plus, cameras followed James Bond, the hyacinth macaw as he coped with living in quarantine, as well as a tiny but mighty golden mantella frog family whose hopes of a breeding boost rested with Eddie and his frog princess Fergie.

Finally, we met great grandmother Thi, the long-standing matriarch of Chester’s Asian elephant herd, who is beginning to feel her age.

In tonight’s second edition, again narrated by the wonderful Tamsin Greig, giant otters give birth to four pups after losing their first litter just a few months ago.

But while mum Icana has her paws full, dad Tarubu is busy eating all the fish, when he really should be providing sustenance for all the family.

Meanwhile, jungle nymph insect Taylor is one in 10,000, with a half-male and half-female body. But as Taylor passes adolescence, will he/she find a mate?

Also tonight, red river hog Kya is being horrifically bullied by her sisters and needs to fight back if she is to survive.

And finally, Batagur turtle Donatello is off his food and swimming with a tilt.

X-rays reveal that he has a belly full of gravel – can the keepers come up with a solution to get him back on an even keel?

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