A Letter to London Zoo – A Short Story by Craig Ainsley
Dear The Manager Of London Zoo,
I love animals. Always have. I grew up with dogs, cats and numerous hamsters, and when I was 12 I was lucky enough to swim with dolphins. It was the most magical experience of my life. I feel that a connection to the animal kingdom is key to developing both our compassion as humans and our place in nature. I want to pass my passion onto my little boy, Archer, so, naturally, I took him to your zoo.
On our way to the monkey enclosure I told Archer all about our cousins, the great apes, and how closely we are related and how, by observing them, we can hope to learn about ourselves and where we come from. When we got to the enclosure, a large male was masturbating openly whilst swinging in a tire.
I don’t know what kind of outfit you’re running over there, but this is not the kind of behaviour I want Archer to observe. I shielded him from the beast and pointed to a smaller, more playful monkey in the corner. He was eating a piece of fruit. I told Archer that we and monkeys even have similar diets. Then the ape shit into its own hand and ate that. Moments later, he gathered more shit from himself and threw it into the face of a smaller monkey. We later learned that this was his sister. I quickly turned Archer around pointed across the way, lying that I thought I had just seen an actor from Star Wars.
This is what you had me doing. Lying to my child. About Star Wars. His favourite film. Archer insisted that we look for the actor and I entertained him for a full 25 minutes – it was a welcome distraction from the filth and smut on display at your monkey house.
Eventually, we decide to buy ice cream and head to the Gorilla Kingdom – such is my love of animals, I was willing to give your dirty zoo a second chance. And I did not expect the same behaviour of gorillas. I told Archer that gorillas are proud, noble primates that live in families and even use rudimentary tools. The first thing we see is a young gorilla roll right back with his legs over his head and piss into his own mouth. It wasn’t an accident either; it was gulping the stuff down. I vomited up my ice cream and covered Archer’s eyes but it was too late, he had seen the deed. I imagine it will be burned into his memory forever, causing irreparable damage. If so, I will bill you for counseling costs.
Eventually, the gorilla stops drinking his own urine and a second gorilla approaches and they start grooming each other. They are brothers and I tell Archer all about the social bonding in gorilla troops and how grooming is integral to the complex community structure. Then to the two gorillas both go down on each other.
Imagine my horror. I rush Archer away and turn him to face a lone female at the other end of the enclosure. She is looking right at the visitors, observing them it seems. Interesting. Archer is amazed by her face, as am I. Her gaze seems intelligent. There’s calculation in her eyes. It’s so fascinating. Then a large, magnificent-looking male arrives. He has a big, silver back and is truly impressive to behold. This is when I begin to think the visit has been worth the admission fee. He actually stands and beats his chest, too, which is a highlight for Archer, and I hope he remembers it forever. Then the silverback mounts the female aggressively from behind and they begin to have sex but it seems more like rape, and no one is coming to help. I cover Archer’s eyes and ears – the female is screaming horrifically – and lead him out of the zoo.
Bus ride home is a blur. I felt sick with shock, and was genuinely in fear of the potential emotional scarring suffered by Archer. I can only hope he hasn’t learnt anything from the strip joint fetish sex club that you call a zoo. I certainly won’t be returning and I have already posted this review to Tripadvisor.
But you and your monsters will not dampen my passion for the natural world. No sir. Only this morning I took Archer to feed the squirrels in the park. He fed them nuts by hand and it was a very magical experience.
Yours, Susan Beth