The Edinburgh Zoo in the rain was a much busier place than I anticipated. Despite the liberal peppering of yellow weather warnings on the Met office website, there were three eager families ahead of me in line for admission.
Long-time volunteer Heather had offered to take me on her own personal tour of the zoo. She was waiting for me in the drizzle by the meerkat enclosure. The meerkats were all piled together in their indoor space, snoozing away the bad dream of Scottish Summer, but many of the other animals in the zoo were more active than I’d seen them before. Who knew bad weather could bring out the action at the zoo.
Heather and I got a lift to the top of the hill and started making our way down. Our first visit was to the anteater, who was up and snuffling about, albeit inside. We descended past the lion cage. Uncharacteristically for a feline, the new young lioness was on the prowl, giving a handful of human visitors a lazy-eyed look over. A few doors down from her, I caught my first ever glimpse of one of the zoo’s elusive Scottish Wildcats. She at least must be used to the rain.
Most of the New World monkeys were out, including the Living Links Capuchins, but then most of them hail from rainforests. Their neighbours, the squirrel monkeys, were staging a food raid on their enclosure. Heather had loads of stories to share about the residents of Living Links, such as the new squirrel monkey alpha male who kept escaping for some peace and quiet and who now spends all his time in the den, making the ladies come to him. These are some of the sorts of stories I’m hoping to collect while I’m storyteller in residence.
As we wandered down, we scoped out venues for storytelling. From the lion and zebra viewing huts, that offer some protection from the rain, to the Magic Forest, altogether we identified 15 locations where audiences could be made comfortable and storytellers could be heard, all with the backdrop of the zoo’s residents.