When : Feb 11-19, 2017 (check websites for exact timings)
Recommended age group : 5-11
Price : Free with zoo ticket. Adults £23.69; Children 3-15 £19.01 (see website for deals and concessions)
I arrived at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo with one thing on my mind. ‘The Vets in Action’ half-term activity, which sounded like a great edutainment event for six year old, pet obsessed, Kitty. We had missed the first slot at 1130, it had been a long morning by the time we arrived at the zoo, and so the next slot was 1:30pm.
We had decided not to bring the car in for cost reasons, the zoo is an expensive day out and it costs an extra £25, for non-members, to bring your car into Whipsnade, so we had parked in the free car park instead. As it was midday our tummies were already rumbling, so we headed off in search of lunch at the ‘Wild Bite’ café.
Appetites satisfied it was nearly time to look for the Vet event. The lady at the ticket office had explained that you couldn’t book a slot at the free event in advance, we were advised to turn up in good time and join the queue. So I was anxious about not missing it. The event was taking place in the Discovery Centre next to the Butterfly House, which were easy to find. But at the front entrance to both, there was no indication of the activities, not a sign, poster or queue. I was getting stressed and preparing Kitty by telling her that we may not get in. But intrepid Grandad eventually found the entrance and the queues had not yet begun so, we were amongst the second group to do the activity.
The kids were suited and booted in the waiting area, with real surgical masks, gloves and shoes covers. One of the zoo presenters gave them an explanation of what happens at the zoo hospital and then the magic began.
We were led (grown-ups can come too) to the first ‘operating theatre’ where Charlie the toy Chimp had a heart condition and one of the zoo’s real vets, Katy Smith, was giving him a check-up, mimicking the health requirements of a real chimp at the zoo. Kitty got do something exciting with tweezers, when it was her turn to help.
Next Vet Claire Raywood showed the kids, there were about eight in Kitty’s group, how to give a replica African Hunting Dog a check-up. A group of the dogs are joining the zoo this spring, so we were imagining that the dog was in quarantine and needed to be checked for illness, fleas and worms, which meant examining pretend poo…errrugh.
Both vets explained that these are the things that they actually do in the course their jobs, so it was a real introduction to the world of work for the children.
Finally the mini-vets were let loose on some stuffed animals, rabbits, rats and guinea pigs. They were given a check-sheet which told them what to look for. Kitty just got stuck in with baby wipes, bandages and hospital medical torches for examining eyes and ears.
That rabbit got a really good check-up from my mini vet, and when she got home, so did every single one of her stuffed toys.
It was a great activity and well worth organizing our day at the zoo around. It lasted about 30 minutes and when we were leaving there was a growing queue of children and parents waiting their turn.
What have you been upto this half-term ? I would love to hear your stories and tips.
(Featured image on home page is courtesy : ZSL)