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Timeshift: a Day at the Zoo

Wed Nov 20, 9-10pm, BBC4

Timeshift: a Day at the Zoo
By Gabriel Tate |
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From the moment the first giraffe tottered off a boat at London docks, Britain has never quite known what to do with exotic animals: how to reconcile public interest with the conservation imperative. Only recently has an acceptable balance been struck (and even there, plenty would disagree).

This ‘Timeshift’ is yet another eminently approachable slice of social history, giving as much weight to the wide-eyed recollections of hardened zoo-goers (‘you could ride on Rosie!’) as the social and scientific implications of these perennially popular attractions. Plus, of course, loads of beguiling animal footage and plenty of amusingly pithy trivia ready for your next pub quiz – oh, to have witnessed the disappointment of crowds massing hoping to see the hippopotamus as the literal incarnation of its Latin name, ‘river horse’.

Richard Bacon rather oversells the folksiness of the narration, like he’s still on ‘Blue Peter’, but this is another triumph of research and presentation. Where else would you find the dots joined between Charles Darwin and Johnny Weissmuller?

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