London Zoo opens a walk-in jungle

RainforestLondon Zoo has recreated a walk-through tropical wilderness where you can skim treetops among free-running mammals, birds and insects named The Rainforest Life.

The project took seven months to complete and involved digging deep below the zoo floor to accommodate trees up to 7m high.

Exotic plants were even delivered to the zoo on the London Underground, with keepers temporarily turning the Bakerloo line into a moving garden centre.

While Britain may have enough rainfall to support a rainforest, it certainly doesn’t have the climate.  The dome has a special roof to let in UV light, and hot-air blowers and a mist sprinkler system to mimic rain and get the humidity right. It might be a bit chilly outside but by the time you get inside you’ll be stripping off!

Animals running free include red titi monkeys, emperor tamarins, sloths and trumpeter birds, which, as their name suggests, make a right din.

Facts about the rainforest

  • Nearly half the medicinal compounds we use every day come from plants native to the rainforest.
  • Ninety per cent of the rainforest plants used as medicines by Amazonian Indians have not been examined by modern science.
  • Rainforests are home to between 50 and 70million different life forms.
  • Every second an area the size of two rugby pitches is lost.
  • If present rates of destruction continue, half our remaining rainforests will be gone by 2025 and by 2060 there will be none at all.
  • Seventy per cent of the plant species identified by the US National Cancer Institute as holding anti-cancer properties come from rainforests.
  • There are more fish species in the Amazon river system than in the entire Atlantic Ocean.
  • A hectare (2.471 acres) of rainforest absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide per year
  • The clearing and burning of the world’s rainforest accounts for 20 to 25 per cent of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by man.