London Zoo has been praised online for a crocodile exhibit that contains only a handbag. In a viral tweet, one Twitter user drew attention to the Siamese crocodile enclosure at the zoo, adding, without a hint of exaggeration, "London zoo not pissing around".
The exhibit places a handbag made of crocodile leather where visitors might expect to see a crocodile, making a point about the illegal wildlife trade and its effect on the species.
“This bag used to be found swimming in slow-moving rivers and streams across Southeast Asia and Indonesia," a sign by the enclosure reads.
“Over the last 75 years more than 80% of Siamese crocodiles have disappeared. Many, like this one, were hunted for their skins as part of the illegal wildlife trade.”
Siamese crocodiles – native to parts of south-east Asia – are critically endangered and virtually extinct in the wild. Due to a classic combination of habitat loss and hunting, the animals are absent from about 99 percent of their original range. A big part of the declining numbers was humans using their natural wetland habitat for rice farming, before commercial hunting for their skins became large-scale in the 1950s.
The handbag on display at the zoo was confiscated at a UK airport, curator of reptiles and amphibians at ZSL London Zoo Ben Tapley told the Huffington Post.
“We made this exhibit, within ZSL London Zoo’s Reptile House, to draw visitors’ attention to the devastating impact the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) is having on species around the world," he explained.
“At ZSL we are working globally with governments and local communities to protect wildlife, support law enforcement that targets trafficking networks, empower local communities affected by IWT and reduce demand for threatened wildlife.”