New TV Documentary to Feature Whipsnade Zoo


  • A new behind-the-scenes documentary will air on ITV – 24 September and 1 October, 9pm

A lioness with a mystery illness, an agoraphobic camel and a sea lion colony prepping for a cross-country move are just some of the stars of a brand-new documentary, airing on ITV this month.

Watch the tv documentary preview

'London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year' is a new fly-on-the-wall series filmed at Whipsnade Zoo and the London Zoo during the nationwide lockdown. Episode one airs at 9pm on Thursday 24 September, with the second airing at the same time on 1 October. 
ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the two world-famous Zoos, granted exclusive access to film company October Films within days of the lockdown being enforced. The team were on-site filming right through to the Zoos’ emotional reopening days on 15 June.

The cameras followed the Zoos’ teams as they dealt with the highs and lows of zoo life in the face of a global pandemic. The filming captured how social distancing measures created new challenges for zookeepers.  There were remote training sessions for vets including how to scan a pregnant okapi and weighing kunekune pigs. Many usual processes had to be adapted. Lockdown also provided some positive opportunities.
Camel keeper Mick Tiley spent extra time coaxing Genghis the Bactrian camel for a walk around London Zoo. Sealion keeper Alex Pinnell was thrilled to spend extra time with her beloved pinnipeds, whose move to another zoo was paused due to the pandemic. 
ZSL’s Chief Marketing Officer, Nigel Campbell said, “ITV’s cameras captured a truly momentous time in ZSL’s history, the longest period we have ever been closed to the public for in our 200 years. We’ve grown from the world’s first scientific zoo into a world-leading conservation charity, but the prolonged closures of our Zoos were the most challenging time we’ve ever faced and have put us under huge strain –  this programme shows the incredible resilience, dedication and humour of our people, whose priority is always the animals.”

Following the animals and zookeepers at the 200-year-old institution, the documentary provides viewers with an exclusive glimpse into what life was like for those who jobs meant they could not stay at home, and the animals they care so deeply for.
The keepers’ connection and dedication to the animals shine through. Elephant keeper Stefan is shown hoping for a pachyderm pregnancy and witnesses Tara the big cat keepers’ anguish when Indi the lioness is unwell with a mystery illness that results in major surgery. 
Campbell added, “Our Zoos are famous for the amazing animals, but this is a chance for viewers to see how amazing our people are too. Be prepared to fall in love with everyone on the programme – human and animal!”

Tune into ITV at 9pm on Thursday 24 September and Thursday 1 October to catch London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year.

If you can, please donate to support the zoo's global conservation work and help their doors stay open: