For those not familiar with BBC Archive, it’s a service that dutifully dusts off some of the forgotten gems tucked deep within the BBC’s rich broadcasting history to deliver throwbacks that are dripping in nostalgia. Highlights have included a visit to the principality of Sealand and this old woman who smashed a whisky-brandy taste test.
Recently, it brought back into the foreground a safety video from the UK safari park Longleat, which runs to this day on the late Lord Bath’s estate in Wiltshire. The park’s lion enclosure is and was open to the public on the condition that they entered (and, crucially, remained) inside their car.
With 42 animals housed within the drive-through exhibit, it wasn’t a place you’d want to go wandering when the (very Brass Eye) safety briefing was recorded in 1987. Despite this, Roger Cawley, who was a manager at Longleat Safari Park, explains that visitors to the lion enclosure had left their vehicles to check their engines and empty their bladders. One group, Cawley explains, even attempted to set up a picnic while inside, evidently not realizing that were one to take place it would be them on the menu.
Clearly, tourists of late-80s Britain were in need of a serious wake-up call. Luckily for them, Longleat Safari Park had a pretty hard-hitting demonstration up their sleeves to really hammer the message home.
Faced with two mannequins dressed in very 80s attire, the lions are at first quite suspicious of the two “tourists” standing so boldly outside of their car. “When the animals did move in, the result was terrifying,” reads the news reporter as the dummy dubbed “Daniel” is whisked away by one of the lions, limbs popping off as it runs. Danielle, Daniel's wife, meets a similarly grisly end, toppling over in fear only for her head to fly off on impact. One can only wonder what that picnic group might say had they witnessed the bloodbath.
Over three decades on and it seems we still have much to learn about safety in zoos. In March, a parent was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment after passing several safety barriers to sneak himself and his 2-year-old daughter into the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. Though an elephant did charge the trespassers, fortunately, neither party was injured as a result of the safety breach.
Following a year of lockdowns, zoos across the world that support and carry out vital research have been hard up due to a lack of footfall meaning donations were thin on the ground. Getting back to your local, responsible zoo is a great way to support the animals, the keepers, and the researchers all the while getting to gaze joyously at some of nature’s wonders. But - once more for the people in the back - leave the animals alone.