A duck that can’t swim!

Zoo Time goes to the Children’s Zoo in London

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 14 April 1964

MISS ANGELA LLOYD is 21, has big, blue eyes and blonde hair that curls perkily at shoulder length.

She has rather unusual playmates, too, like Denise, a rheumatic Muscovy duck that can’t swim; Rebel, a rabbit that’s always on the run; and a gaggle of tame, baby sparrows that peck the grit from the soles of your shoes.

We all shared an interview in a backyard of the staff quarters at the Children’s Zoo, London, where Angela works and her off-beat animal chums live.

You can see Angela talking about rats and mice as pets on Zoo Time, on Wednesday. She is something of an expert on pet rodents, having kept and bred them since she was six years old. She talked to me about life in the Children’s Zoo … and the sort of things youngsters say and do when visiting this miniature Disneyland.

A duck
Denise, the Muscovy duck. When she tries to swim, she sinks!
Angela Lloyd and an animal
Angela Lloyd with one of her friends at the Children’s Zoo in London

First, let’s introduce Denise and Rebel. Poor old Denise, aged about five — which I am assured is elderly for a Muscovy duck — has rheumatism in her webbed feet. As the affliction has dried out her feathers, it has upset her buoyancy and she can’t swim any more. A disastrous state of affairs for a duck.

But the girl helpers at the Children’s Zoo have adopted Denise as their personal pet. They even bath the old girl. She lives cosily in a bale of straw behind the staff quarters, growing old gracefully.

Rebel, the rabbit, is her bale-mate and keeps escaping from his pen in the Zoo. So he has been posted to the rear of the staff quarters, which are adequately enclosed but where he can roam freely.

“I’ve been working here for nearly three years,” said Angela. “Although I appeared in several TV plays and stage productions as a juvenile, animals have always been my first love.

“I adore the work. It gives me a chance to be near all the animals I’m interested in, mice and rats particularly.

“I look after and study rodents in the mornings. In the afternoons I take the children on pony rides. The children fail into two categories — the very shy ones and the super-confident, leave-me-alone-I’m-all-right ones.

“In fact, one little boy once told me: ‘Leave me alone. I know what to do. I’ve watched Rawhide!’ And he dug in his heels and almost managed to get a normally placid Shetland pony to break into a gallop.

“Hamsters, too, amuse the children. One day, two little boys watched fascinated for hours while a hamster chewed his way patiently through his hutch.

“Once he had escaped, they came and told me. ‘He’s super,’ they said. ‘Will you ask him to do it again?’

“And there was a sad scene when a little girl fed Hector, one of our mischievous goats, with a fresh loaf of bread.

“Hector left the bread … and gobbled the wax-paper wrapping. He loves that, although it’s bad for his digestion.

“But the little girl cried because she thought Hector didn’t want her loaf.

“I reassured her and told her he was a special goat who liked to eat paper and rags. Next time I looked around, sure enough, the little girl was feeding Hector her frilly handkerchief.”

Then Angela prepared to go and feed her mice. Mice? Weren’t girls supposed to be terrified of mice? “That’s silly,” said Angela. “They’re lovable little things.

“But I can’t stand spiders. Ugh. Even a tiny one sends me scampering away screaming.”

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