Sadly disappointing, Edinburgh Zoo Nights felt like a watered down version of Edinburgh Zoo. “Carnival Rides” were promised but in the end were not granted a license from Edinburgh Council and many areas of the zoo were closed off. Aside from a spot of learning in the form of a stall where staff unenthusiastically demonstrated how DNA may be extracted from a strawberry, the festival had many over-priced offerings for its audience: fortune telling, cocktails, beers, food, face-painting – and all of it no doubt wrapped up by exiting via the gift shop.

Edinburgh Zoo didn’t provide much of what they had promised for their first of several Zoo Nights. The result was a formidable experience, which I mostly spent questioning what the £20 ticket fee was spent on.  There were plenty of staff on hand to give me awkward looks as I eyed up the strawberry DNA-extraction stall, offer me ice-free mini-cocktails for £7 or, should I be so lucky, let me stroke a slug. It had been over twenty years since I was last in Edinburgh Zoo and yet the greatest joy of my evening involved reminding myself of the penguins, pelicans, red pandas and tapirs, all of which would have been accessible on a conventional trip to the zoo.

The penguin-themed skittle toss game looked twenty years out of date, the stilt-walkers were sparse and the silent disco was more like a socially inept, weird wedding disco. In the hope that I might get to see some of the animals that I had not yet seen, I approached the event security staff. To my dismay however, said staff member informed me that I would not able to see many of the animals in the evening (to be fair, most were probably asleep) and instead pointed me in the direction of the exit as they “would be encouraging everyone in that direction very soon anyway.”

The night’s offerings did not add up to a £20 ticket. That was clear. There was little on offer, aside from the usual zoo suspects. And even then, many of them were predictably in bed.  Unless Edinburgh Zoo buck up their ideas and provide an alternative to a Ferris wheel that cannot move, I would advise that, not only would it be a waste of time and bus fare getting to this part of town, it’s probably not worth your effort traipsing round the zoo to see what else is on offer – no matter how great the penguin sanctuary is.

Photos courtesy of RZSS/Siân Addison.

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