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A Trip to Marwell Zoo


Wednesday, 12 March 2008 00:00

A Trip to Marwell Zoo

On the 18th November 2007 Marwell Zoo in Hampshire celebrated a rare birth, that or a female Amur Leopard cub. With less than 35 of these beautiful animals left in the wild this was clearly big news. It was perhaps even bigger news when on 29th February 2008 the zoo announced that the cub would be put into the Leopards area and be visible to visitors for the first time. Seeing this on the news we decided to take a trip to the zoo the next day.

I've been to Marwell several times before but it's always nice to revisit it and to try to get some more photos of the animals. How did I get on?

With all the recent bad weather it was perhaps no surprise that the weather wasn't exactly on our side. This is the biggest problem that I have found with Marwell, it is very exposed and it's position in the landscape means that it is often windy in many parts of the zoo which in turn causes the temperature to drop and for some of the animals to retreat inside or be far less active than normal and indeed this was how it was for us. As this wasn't what I call a 'photo day' where the main focus of the day is to take photos and was primarily intended simply as a nice day out this wasn't too big a problem for us. However, as expected, the new Leopard cub was proving a big draw. Sadly it was here that I witnessed behavior by fellow 'photographers' that I think just gives us all a bad name.

For those that have never been to Marwell, the Leopard enclosure isn't particularly large and is effectively split in two from a viewing point of view. On each side on their enclosure are glass walls which allow groups of visitors to view the cats up close. From the south wall you can see into their den and then there is a small area out the front for them to move around in. From the north wall you can't see the den but you can view there main outdoor area. Naturally the cub and mother were staying inside the den and so most people were at the south wall. Right at the front of this group of people were five photographers, 2 of whom had set-up tripods right in front of the den. Now I have visited Marwell on numerous occasions in the past and have taken a tripod with me. I have also organized 'photo meets' for websites where a group of us have visited the zoo with the sole intention of taking photos. However I and all the people I have taken with me have always followed one simple rule and that is to make room for others. By others I don't necessarily mean other photographers but anyone else who has paid an entrance fee and would like to see the animals, especially children.

Yet here were 5 photographers who had basically set-up camp and wouldn't budge or let anyone squeeze in to catch a glimpse of the cub. I was so incensed by this this that I shot a little video of it which can be viewed below.


I personally don't think that there is any excuse for this kind of behavior especially when you consider the kind of photos that they were going to be taking and what they could legally do with them. Here was a cub that was effectively hiding inside a very dark and obviously man made enclosure so they would mostly end up will dark photos of a cub sitting on a concrete floor. Despite all their pro bodies and lenses they wouldn't have been allowed to legally sell the photos as the zoo charge for commercial photography and doesn't generally allow this to take place at weekends when visitor numbers are high so there wouldn't be any financial reason to act in this way. So was it really worth disappointing dozens of young children who would undoubtedly have got more enjoyment from seeing the cub than any of these photographers would or could have. It wasn't even as if they were just 'camped' there for 30 minutes or an hour, they were there for hours and hours.

To be honest after witnessing this behavior I didn't feel that inspired to take many photos but these are a few I did take



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