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Walk Among Indigenous Colombian Animals at ZSL London Zoo

After many Years of visiting this wonderful zoo on an almost weekly and sometimes even daily basis, I have found myself linking my interest for Colombia with a connection to dedicating the majority of my visiting time to all Colombia relevant species found at London Zoo. I found myself studying their habits and learning more about the specific species and conservation stories in their Colombian homelands. I have even visited Bogotá's Zoo of which I've written a review over at TripAdvisor. Over the course of the recent two years, I've found myself becoming really very attached to the majority of animals mentioned here.

I've compiled this article to give anyone in and around London, including those willing to travel to London, as great an experience of as much Colombian origin species found at London Zoo as possible. Perhaps those planning a trip to Colombia or returned from Colombia. There may be Colombians raised in the United Kingdom finding themselves out of touch with Colombia. Just about anyone interested in Colombia for whatever reason will hopefully find this information interesting. My own interest in Colombia has been the driving force for me to compile this piece for anyone seeking a piece of Colombia in Britain.

Red-Legged Honeycreeper

First of all, I would really appreciate it if everyone reading this could help in sharing it via your social media accounts with a Tweet, share on Facebook and a share on Google+. All exposure really helps in making this work worthwhile.


I have since posted a nice addition to this post focused on a multitude of other ways to see Colombian animal species in London. You will find it here: Hot Stepping further through Colombian Animal Species in London.

The only piece of equipment I have used in compiling this resource was my Sony DSC-HX20V Compact Camera. It proved light and very versatile. Its versatility became useful particularity in low light environments such as The Aquarium, Rainforest and Reptile Houses. The camera's GPS function helped immensely in grouping hundreds of pictures by their locations within the zoo's grounds. I used Picasa to firstly organise and then apply minor edits to some photos.

I've grouped species around their locations within the zoo grounds. First by their general enclosures and then those housed at solitary locations around the zoo. Where applicable I list the general enclosure and then catalogue the species held within those enclosures. Individual species are headed by their common names. The species descriptions contain their scientific name and a map showing their distribution in some form. I try to add a personal comment relevant to their London Zoo captivity. I end with a series of photos showing firstly their zoo information card, then their general enclosure followed by a number of photos of the species themselves.

Searching for ZSL links with Colombia reveals nothing of particular direct interest. However, there is a young female professional associated with the London Society of Zoology called Patricia Brekke whom tweets regularly on topics concerning conservation and biology. She can be contacted via She published some great and very interesting papers here.

Featured Images from the Article

Here are some of my own favourite photographs taken throughout the Years of my visits to Colombian animals. If you have any or make any after being inspired by this piece please let me know here.

Mapping the Colombian Trail at London Zoo

I've created a map showing the location of enclosures housing all Colombian species at London Zoo at the point of this article's date. You should see this map below but can open here in a new browser tab/window. Although on the map I have highlighted a trail you can take to bring you past each enclosure I welcome you to select the order at which you yourself would like to see any species. Furthermore, the trail makes no account for timing with regards to the live shows.

Rainforest Life and Nightlife

Rainforest Life is a walk-through indoor exhibit that houses several different species of rainforest animals. The building also has a darkened area called "Nightlife".

The below video is admittedly very old. But it still gives a wonderful look at the Zoo's rainforest enclosure and showcases many wonderful Colombian animals. Some of the animals, for example, the birds are seen when they were very young (they are now much older and fatter).

Goeldi's Marmoset

The first species you'll see upon entering the rainforest. Goeldi's marmoset or Goeldi's monkey (Callimico goeldii) is a small, South American New World monkey that lives in the upper Amazon Basin region of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Goeldi's marmosets are blackish or blackish-brown in colour and the hair on their head and tail sometimes has red, white, or silvery brown highlights. Their bodies are about 8–9 inches (20–23 cm) long, and their tails are about 10–12 inches (25–30 cm) long. The species takes its name from its discoverer, the Swiss naturalist Emil August Goeldi. They are on a threatened list of species.

Cotton-Top Tamarin

A truly Colombian of species on display here. Enjoy their excitement and restlessness. On hot days you'll even find them in their outside cage positions directly behind by the meerkat enclosure. The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a small New World monkey weighing less than 0.5 kg (1.1 lb). One of the smallest primates. The cotton-top tamarin displays a wide variety of social behaviours. In particular, groups form a clear dominance hierarchy where only dominant pairs breed. It is thought that up to 40,000 cotton-top tamarins were caught and exported for use in biomedical research before 1976 when CITES gave them the highest level of protection and all international trade was banned. Now the species is at risk due to large-scale habitat destruction, as the lowland forest in north-western Colombia where the cotton-top tamarin is found has been reduced to five percent of its previous area. The cotton-top tamarin is restricted to a small area of northwest Colombia, between the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers to the South and East, the Atlantic coast to the North, and the Atrato River to the West. The cotton-top tamarin is found in both primary and secondary forests, from humid tropical forests in the south of its range to tropical dry forests in the north. It is seldom found at altitudes above 400 metres (1,300 ft) but has been encountered up to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). It prefers the lower levels of the tropical forests but may also be found foraging on the ground and anywhere between the understory and the canopy. It can adapt to forest fragments and can survive in relatively disturbed habitats. In the dry forests, there are pronounced seasons. Between December and April, it is dry, while heavy rainfall occurs between August and November which can flood the forest floor. Across its range annual rainfall varies between 500 and 1,300 mm (20 and 51 in).

The #cottontoptamarin (#Saguinusoedipus) is a small #NewWorldmonkey weighing less than 0.5 kg (1.1 lb). One of the smallest #primates, the #cottontop #tamarin is easily recognized by the long white #sagittal crest extending from its forehead to its shoulders. The #species is found in #tropicalforest edges and #secondaryforests in northwestern #Colombia where it is #arboreal and #diurnal. Its diet includes insects and plant exudates and it is an important seed disperser in the #tropical #ecosystem. The cotton-top tamarin displays a wide variety of social behaviors. In particular, groups form a clear dominance #hierarchy where only dominant pairs breed. The female normally gives birth to twins and uses #pheromones to prevent other females in the group from breeding. These #tamarins have been extensively studied for their high level of cooperative care, as well as altruistic andspiteful behaviors. Communication between cotton-top tamarins is sophisticated and shows evidence of grammatical structure, a language feature that must be acquired. It is thought that up to 40,000 cotton-top tamarins were caught and exported for use in #biomedical research before 1976 when #CITES gave them the highest level of protection and all international trade was banned. Now the species is at risk due to large-scale habitat destruction, as the lowland #forest in northwestern Colombia where the cotton-top tamarin is found has been reduced to five percent of its previous area. It is currently classified as critically endangered and is one of the #rarest primates in the world with only 6,000 individuals left in the wild.
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Red-Bellied Piranha

The great display here in this enclosure. I could spend a very long time here watching them if only the heat wasn't so Amazonian. The red-bellied piranha or red piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) is a species of piranha native to South America. The red-bellied piranha is distributed widely throughout the South American continent and is found in the Neotropical freshwater rivers of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In packs up to hundreds, piranhas have been known to feed on animals as large as egrets or capybara.

Green Iguana

Great to see this one here. Always chilled and relaxed normally right in the middle under the lamp. The green iguana or common iguana (Iguana iguana) is a large, arboreal, mostly herbivorous species of lizard. The native range of the green iguana extends from southern Mexico to central Brazil. When frightened by a predator, green iguanas will attempt to flee, and if near a body of water, they dive into it and swim away. If cornered by a threat, the green iguana will extend and display the dewlap under its neck, stiffen and puff up its body, hiss, and bob its head at the aggressor. If threat persists the iguana can lash with its tail, bite and use its claws in defence. The American pet trade has put a great demand on the green iguana; 800,000 iguanas were imported into the U.S. in 1995 alone, primarily originating from captive farming operations based in their native countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, and Panama).

Bullhorn Cockroach

Peppered roaches (Archimandrita tesselata) range throughout Central and South America. This species ranges in size from 55-70mm, the females usually being larger and very wide. Although not of the longest roaches, its width and sheer mass makes up for it. Peppered’s are slow to mature, taking up to nine months go from a baby to adult. Female’s gestation of the egg sack can take up to six months. Typical lifespan ranges between 12-30 months with the females living much longer than the males. Both males and females have wings, but this is a non-climbing\flying species.

Northern Helmeted Curassow

Great experience when you see this pair roaming around you and making their sounds too. The helmeted curassow or northern helmeted curassow, (Pauxi pauxi) is a large terrestrial black curassow. One of the largest birds in its habitat, the helmeted curassow is distributed in the eastern Andes of Venezuela and Colombia. The diet consists mainly of seeds, fruits, insects and small animals.


This present moment in time Ria the Zoo's tamandua is away on holiday and will be back soon. Normally Ria is all over the place and you'll find her walking about the enclosure's pathways. Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) is a genus of anteaters with two species. They mainly eat ants and termites, but they occasionally eat bees, beetles, and insect larvae. The northern tamandua ranges from southeastern Mexico south throughout Central America, and in South America west of the Andes from northern Venezuela to northern Peru. Their tapered mouths house a tongue reaching upwards of 40 cm (16 in) in length. The tamanduas are nocturnal, active at night and secreting away in hollow tree trunks and burrows abandoned by other animals during daylight hours. They spend up to half of their time in the treetops, as much as 64%, where they forage for arboreal ants and termites. Tamanduas move rather awkwardly on the ground and are incapable of galloping like their relative, the giant anteater. Tamanduas walk on the sides on their clenched forefeet to avoid injuring their palms with their sharp claws.

Linnaeus's Two-Toed Sloth

A great one to see. Sometimes a little tricky to find among the enclosure's forestation. Choloepus is a genus of mammals of Central and South America, within the family Megalonychidae consisting of two-toed sloths. The two species of Choloepus (which means "lame foot"), Linnaeus's two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus) and Hoffmann's two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni), are the only surviving members of the family Megalonychidae.

Red-Footed Tortoise

It is hard if sometimes impossible to spot this pair of tortoises. If you do see them savour the moment. Red-footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria) are tortoises from northern South America. They are medium-sized tortoises that generally average 30 centimetres (12 in) as adults but can reach over 40 cm (16 in). Their natural habitat ranges from Savannah to forest-edges around the Amazon Basin. Red-footed tortoises range from south-eastern Panama to Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and Guiana in the north; down the Andes to the west in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia; east to Brazil, and along the southern range in Bolivia, Paraguay, and possibly northern Argentina.


These birds are specified listed as being kept at the Blackburn Pavilion (shown here below). I actually prefer to see them here in the rainforest.

Seba's Short-Tailed Bat

The main attraction in the buildings Nightlife exhibits. Seba's short-tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata) is a common and widespread bat species from South and Central America. This is a small bat species, with a twelve to fourteen-inch wingspan. It also has grey-brown fur.

Brown Rat

It was very hard to picture these guys. Very dark environment and they are continuously on the move. I very much like how the rats are able to move out and around visitors through a series of pipes. The brown rat also referred to as common rat, street rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat (Rattus norvegicus) is one of the best known and most common rat. Thought to have originated in northern China, this rodent has now spread to all continents except Antarctica and is the dominant rat in Europe and much of North America—making it by at least this particular definition the most successful mammal on the planet after humans.

The Aquarium

The aquarium is separated into three halls, each home to different types of fish and other aquatic life. It is the third hall that houses the greatest number of Colombian origin species and species native to the Amazon River of the entire zoo. Basically, almost everything in this part of the aquarium is relevant to this post. I have however only included the species specifically identified as Colombian. Thanks to it's close proximity to the zoo's entrance and with it having the greatest impact in seeing the largest number of Colombian species I'd say this is a great place to start your Colombian adventure at London Zoo. A little fact for you. Upon viewing a Colombian species information card you'll notice it being whiter and newer than all the others. That's because the zoo originally misspelt "Colombia" as "Columbia". This is a common error and was only updated when I made a comment to the zoo via their twitter account. All credit to the zoo for correcting the mistake.

Y-Striped Leporinus

Leporinus y-ophorus is distributed at points of Colombia's Meta River and Venezuela's Orinoco. There isn't much on the internet regarding this exact species. If anyone has a digital copy of the German Carl H. Eigenmann's 1922 published findings please contact me.

Emperor Tetra

Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon palmeri) is a species of characid fish found in the Atrato and San Juan river basins in western Colombia.

Bronze Corydoras

The bronze corydoras (Corydoras aeneus) is a tropical freshwater fish. It is widely distributed in South America on the eastern side of the Andes, from Colombia and Trinidad to the Río de la Plata basin. They are found in quiet, shallow waters with soft bottoms that can sometimes be heavily polluted by clouds of disturbed mud from the bottom, but it also inhabits running waters. Like most members of the Corydoras genus, these catfish have a unique method of coping with the low oxygen content that prevails in such environments. In addition to utilizing their gills like any other fish, they rapidly come to the surface of the water and draw air in through their mouth. This air is then absorbed through the wall of the intestine and any surplus air is expelled through the vent.

Colombian Red-Finned Tetra

The Colombian tetra or blue-red Colombian tetra, Hyphessobrycon columbianus, is a freshwater fish of the characin family. The Colombian tetra is native to the Acandi River drainage system (near Acandí) in north-western Colombia. The Colombian tetra's habitat tends to be slow-flowing creeks and tributaries.

Festive Cichlid

This species (Mesonauta mirificus) is distinguished from its congeners by its colour pattern: bar 6 including a light vertical stripe that usually divides the bar into two narrow parallel stripes below the middle of the side, and narrow dark horizontal lines along the side. Distributed on the Amazon River basin in Peru and Colombia, in tributaries of the Ucayali and Amazon rivers, from Yarina Cocha to Mocagua Island near Leticia.

Pink Corydoras

The pink corydoras (Corydoras axelrodi) is a tropical freshwater fish. It originates in inland waters in South America and is found in the Meta River basin in Colombia.

The Reptile House

One of London Zoo's most well-known buildings, the Reptile House opened in 1927. In December 2012, a refurbished amphibian section was opened to the public. Unfortunately, it showcases only one display showing off one frog species. But they really are the most impressive for me from this whole post. This is my recommendation for a must see. If you're only able to see one species from this whole post this is the one I would advise you to see.

Poison Dart Frog

Poison dart frog (also known as a poison-dart frog, poison frog or formerly known as poison arrow frog) is the common name of a group of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae which are native to Central and South America. These species are diurnal and often have bright coloured bodies. Although all wild dendrobatids are at least somewhat toxic, levels of toxicity vary considerably from one species to the next and from one population to another. Many species are threatened. These amphibians are often called "dart frogs" due to the Amerindians' indigenous use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts. Poison dart frogs are endemic to humid, tropical environments of Central and South America. The subspecies listed and shown here at London zoo are the Dendrobatidae tinctorius.

Aquatic Caecilian

Typhlonectes natans, also incorrectly called the rubber eel, is a species of caecilian in the family Typhlonectidae found in Colombia, Venezuela, and possibly Trinidad and Tobago. Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical moist shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, and rivers. A great information reference can be found here by Mijares, A., Castro, F., Measey, J. & Wilkinson, M. 2004. Photographing this one was hard as the light is low and the caecilian moves fast. This video here provides a good look at better quality.

Emerald Tree Boa

Corallus caninus, commonly called the emerald tree boa, is a non-venomous boa species found in the rainforests of South America. Adults grow to about 6 feet (1.8 m) in length. Juveniles vary in colour between various shades of light and dark orange or brick-red before ontogenetic colouration sets in and the animals turn emerald green (after 9–12 months of age). Found in South America in the Amazon Basin region of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, northern Bolivia, Brazil, and from Venezuela to Suriname and the Guiana Shield.

Green Anaconda

Eunectes murinus (derived from the Greek ευνήκτης meaning "good swimmer" and the Latin murinus meaning "of mice" for being thought to prey on mice), commonly known as the green anaconda, is a non-venomous boa species found in South America. It is the largest and heaviest known extant snake species. Other common names include common anaconda and water boa. Anacondas live in swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams, mainly in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon east of the Andes and Orinoco basins. They are cumbersome on land, but stealthy and sleek in the water. Their eyes and nasal openings are on top of their heads, allowing them to lie in wait for prey while remaining nearly completely submerged. While in Colombia in 1978, herpetologist William W. Lamar had an encounter with a large female specimen which measured 7.5 m (24.6 ft) and was estimated to weigh between 136 and 180 kg (300 and 397 lb). A side note here's an interesting report on William W. Lamar that I found whilst writing this article.

Caiman Lizard

The Northern Caiman Lizard (Dracaena guianensis) is a species of lizard found in northern South America. The body of the caiman lizard is very similar to that of a crocodile. It is typically a bright green with slight dark green banding. There are horned raised scales along the dorsal of the back. This help to provide some protection against predators. This species can be found in the countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and the Guianas. It lives in swampy habitats and other wooded areas which are flooded. It is mostly aquatic and is an excellent climber. It spends most of its time basking on branches overhanging the waterways so that if trouble was to arise it would be a quick drop in the safety of the water. This species was heavily hunted for their leather. In 1970 they were provided protection and the export of their hides dropped.


This building standing for 'Biodiversity Underpinning Global Survival', houses a great range of discovery for children and is very interactive. Although it does feature here in my list for Colombian species I am going to admit none of the listed species here are particularly Colombian. They do reside in Colombia but their range of distribution is great.

Leaf-Cutter Ant

My favourite bug in this collection. They are on display in two separate enclosures here. One is a very big encircled glass enclosure. The other has rope leading the ants from one enclosure to their next. It is very impressive and a nice trick that leads them past your face as they carry parts of leaves to their nest that is visible. Atta cephalotes is one of 41 species of leafcutter ant. This species is part of the Attini tribe (the fungus-growing ants). A single colony of ants can contain up to 5 million members, and each colony has one queen that can live more than 15 years. The colony comprises different castes, known as ‘task partitioning’, and each caste has a different job to do. Across the rainforest floor, they occupy an area typically an area of approximately 20 feet. They live in nests that can be as deep as 7 metres that they have carefully positioned so that a breeze can rid the nest of the dangerous levels of CO2 given off by the fungus they farm and eat.

Tarantula - Bird-Eating Spider

Tarantulas comprise a group of often hairy and very large arachnids belonging to the Theraphosidae family of spiders, of which approximately 900 species have been identified. Tarantulas of various species occur in the southern and western parts of the United States, in Central America, and throughout South America. Some genera of tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees; others hunt on or near the ground. All tarantulas can produce silk – while arboreal species will typically reside in a silken "tube tent", terrestrial species will line their burrows with silk to stabilize the burrow wall and facilitate climbing up and down. Tarantulas mainly eat insects and other arthropods, using ambush as their primary method of prey capture. The biggest tarantulas can kill animals as large as lizards, mice, birds and small snakes. Sorry, you can't see much of the Tarantula in my photo below. It was well hidden within it's "tube tent".

Black Widow

Latrodectus is a genus of spider in the family Theridiidae, many of which are commonly known as widow spiders. The genus contains 32 recognized species distributed worldwide. Due to the presence of latrotoxin in their venom, black widow bites are potentially dangerous and may result in systemic effects (latrodectism) including severe muscle pain, abdominal cramps, hyperhidrosis, tachycardia, and muscle spasms. Symptoms usually last for 3–7 days, but may persist for several weeks. Contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage, let alone death. Fatal bites were reported in the early 20th century mostly with tredecimguttatus. Since the venom is not likely to be life-threatening, antivenom has been used as pain relief and not to save lives.

Bullhorn Cockroach

Another one that is well displayed over at the Rainforest enclosure.

Apple Snail

Pomacea is a genus of freshwater snails with gills and an operculum, aquatic gastropod mollusks in the family Ampullariidae. The genus is native to the Americas and most species are restricted to South America.

Brown Rat

These guys are on display over at the Rainforest in a far more impressive enclosure. However, they are easier to view here.

Honey Bee

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. During the early 1600s, it was introduced to North America, with other European subspecies introduced two centuries later. Since then, it has spread throughout the Americas.

Butterfly Paradise

Opened in May 2006, Butterfly Paradise houses several different species of butterfly and moth from around the world. The exhibit also features a caterpillar hatchery and a pupa display cabinet, where visitors can witness different types of pupae and the development of new butterflies. Here's a nice book with information on a number of butterflies featured here and their relation to Colombia (Along with information on many other Colombian species.).

Owl Butterfly

An owl butterfly (Caligo eurilochus) is a butterfly, in the genus Caligo, known for their huge eyespots, which resemble owls' eyes. They are found in the rainforests and secondary forests. Nice video of this butterfly emerging.

Blue Morpho Butterfly

The Peleides Blue Morpho, Common Morpho, or The Emperor (Morpho peleides) is an iridescent tropical butterfly found in Mexico, Central America, northern South America, Paraguay, and Trinidad.

The brilliant blue colour in the butterfly's wings is caused by the diffraction of the light from millions of tiny scales on its wings. It uses this to frighten away predators, by flashing its wings rapidly. The wingspan of the Blue Morpho butterfly ranges from 7.5–20 cm (3.0–7.9 in). The entire Blue Morpho butterfly lifecycle, from egg to adult is only 115 days.

Glasswing Butterfly

The Glasswinged butterfly (Greta oto) is a brush-footed butterfly and is a member of the subfamily Danainae, tribe Ithomiini, subtribe Godyridina. Adults range from Mexico through Panama and Colombia They also fly through Florida. The wings are transparent, with a span of 5.6 to 6.1 cm (2.2 to 2.4 in). The butterfly's most common English name is the glass-winged butterfly, and its Spanish name is "espejitos", which means "little mirrors". Indeed, the tissue between the veins of its wings looks like glass, as it lacks the coloured scales found in other butterflies.

Postman Butterfly

The postman butterfly, common postman, or simply postman (Heliconius melpomene) is one of the heliconiine butterflies. The distribution of this butterfly is from Central America to Southern Brazil. The postman butterfly has large long wings with an orange stripe down each fore-wing. It is poisonous and has red patterns on its wings. This butterfly visits the same flowering plants every day giving it it's postman name. This is an interesting video of the postman butterfly from the ZSL.

Blackburn Pavilion

The Blackburn Pavilion is a rainforest-themed tropical bird aviary that opened in March 2008, as a refurbishment of the zoo's out-of-date birdhouse. The building was originally constructed in 1883, as a reptile house. The pavilion houses fifty different species of exotic birds. One of the pavilion's prominent features is a large, elaborate clock outside the main entrance, which gives a bird-themed display every thirty minutes throughout the day. Despite its rainforest theme it only houses two Colombian relevant species plus one hummingbird native to Peru.

Black-Necked Stilt

You can see this bird inside and outside the Pavilion. I think it's the most interesting to watch bird of the Colombian species here. It's interesting to note that the bird had been sighted on the Bogotá plain. The black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) is a locally abundant shorebird of American wetlands and coastlines. Distributed South through Central America and the Caribbean to northwest Brazil southwest Peru, east Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands.

Red-Legged Honeycreeper

The red-legged honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) is a small songbird species. It is found in the tropical New World from southern Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago. This is a species of forest edge, open woodland, and cocoa and citrus plantations. The red-legged honeycreeper is often found in small groups. It feeds on insects and some fruit and nectar. The species had been studied in the Parque Nacional de La Macarena of Colombia. Photographing this one was the hardest of the lot. Taking a good few hours for it to perch at a good spot. This is due to the very think mesh used by the zoo to display all caged birds at the pavilion. During my time of observing this bird and waiting for the good photo, I became very enchanted with this beautiful bird.

Ultramarine Grosbeak

The ultramarine grosbeak (Cyanocompsa brissonii) is a species found in a wide range of semi-open habitats in eastern and central South America, with a disjunct population in northern South America. The ultramarine grosbeak is territorial, it doesn´t fly in flocks. If a male invades the territory of another, for sure there will be a conflict with some violence. They inhabit the edge of swamps, secondary forests and plantations. The native range of these birds extends from Northeast and central Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay to Argentina. The also can be found northern Venezuela and Colombia. There are some morphological differences between subspecies from different regions. It was very hard for me and my camera to picture this guy, he was always twitching and darting here and there.


The sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) is a bittern-like bird of tropical regions of the Americas. The sunbittern's range extends from Guatemala to Brazil, in the humid Neotropical forests, generally near rivers and streams. They are cryptic birds that display their large wings, that exhibits a pattern that resembles eyes when they feel threatened.

Bird Safari

This enclosure only holds one relevant Colombian bird. It does make for a nice pass through. The enclosure is often ignored by busy zoo visitors. The talk given here is quite good and close in nature.

White-faced Tree Duck

The white-faced whistling duck (Dendrocygna viduata) is a whistling duck that breeds in sub-Saharan Africa and much of South America. In Colombia it can be found mostly in the North, East and South of Bogotá but nowhere near the Pacific coast. The white-faced whistling duck has a peculiar disjunctive distribution, occurring in Africa and South America. It has been suggested that they may have been transported to new locations by humans. The habitat is still freshwater lakes or reservoirs, with plentiful vegetation, where this duck feeds on seeds and other plant food.

Here's a nice photo taken of the bird in Colombia for Birding Colombia. Here are some wonderful media files, again from them in their Colombian habitat.

Snowdon Aviary

Another space that holds a mere few Colombia relevant species. This Aviary is very impressive and is a superb reason to visit the Zoo's lesser attended half, over the Regents Canal. There's a spectacular footbridge that runs the length of the massive aviary.

Cattle Egret

The cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a cosmopolitan species of heron (family Ardeidae) found in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zones. The cattle egret has undergone one of the most rapid and wide-reaching natural expansions of any bird species. It was originally native to parts of Southern Spain and Portugal, tropical and subtropical Africa and humid tropical and subtropical Asia. In the end of the 19th century, it began expanding its range into southern Africa, first breeding in the Cape Province in 1908. Cattle egrets were first sighted in the Americas on the boundary of Guiana and Suriname in 1877, having apparently flown across the Atlantic Ocean. It was not until the 1930s that the species is thought to have become established in that area. In South America, migrating birds travel south of their breeding range in the non-breeding season. A conspicuous species, the cattle egret has attracted many common names. These mostly relate to its habit of following cattle and other large animals, and it is known variously as cow crane, cowbird or cow heron, or even elephant bird, rhinoceros egret.


There are yet a few more Colombian species that find themselves scattered around the zoo. Sometimes these places change but in some cases, their locations are near permanent.

Military Macaw

Just outside the exit to the Butterfly Paradise, you'll find these wonderfully iconic birds of Colombia. They are usually very active and you've got a good chance at hearing them complain.

The military macaw (Ara militaris) inhabits arid woodlands and subtropical forests. They typically live at elevations of 600 to 2600m, higher in the mountains than most macaws ever range. However, these macaws may seasonally fly down to lowlands, where they are likely in humid forests and thorny woodlands. They will nest in the tops of trees and more often in cliff-faces over 600 ft. (200 m) above the ground. The three subspecies of the military macaw are distinguished geographically. A. m. militaris are found in areas of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela. A. m. mexicana occupy areas in Mexico and A. m. boliviana live in Bolivia.

Giant Anteater

These fine animals can be found in a smart enclosure just outside the B.U.G.S. enclosure by the toilets. My apologies for these not very telling images. I very rarely see them outside their den. Hopefully, upon your own visit, you'll be able to see them out and about.

The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) is native to Central and South America. Its known range stretches from Honduras to northern Argentina, and fossil remains have been found as far north as north-western Sonora, Mexico. It is largely absent from the Andes and has been extirpated in Uruguay. It may also be extirpated in Belize, Costa Rica and Guatemala. The species can be found in a number of habitats including both tropical rainforests and xeric shrublands, provided enough prey is present to sustain it.

The giant anteater is commonly hunted in Bolivia, both for sport and sustenance. The animal's thick, leathery hide is used to make equestrian equipment in the Chaco. In Venezuela, it is hunted for its claws. Giant anteaters are killed for safety reasons, due to their reputation as dangerous animals. The giant anteater remains widespread. Some populations are stable and the animal can be found in various protected areas in the Amazon and the Cerrado. It is officially protected in some Argentine provinces as a national heritage species.

Spectacled Owl

My favourite of the Owls here at London is is this fine specimen. They have a permanent home among all the other owls across the canal. But a more temporary enclosure can be found opposite the old penguin pool. If you're lucky you'll see him fly at the Animals in Action show everyday at 12:30. Here's a timed link to a YouTube video I made in which this Owl features.

The Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) is found in Mexico, Central America (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama), Trinidad and Tobago, and South America (Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina). The spectacled owl is primarily a bird of tropical rain forests, being found mostly in areas where dense, old-growth forest is profuse. However, it may enter secondary habitats, such as forest edges, especially while hunting. On occasion, they have been found in dry forests, treed savanna plains, plantations and semi-open areas with trees. In areas such as Costa Rica, they may inhabit subtropical montane forests of up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft), although are generally associated with lowland forests.

Burrowing Owl

A real lively Owl and one you can find at the Zoo's regular midday show. It doesn't fly but rather runs on the ground.

Speotyto cunicularia (Athene cuniculariarange from the southern portions of the western Canadian provinces through southern Mexico and western Central America. They are also found in Florida and many Caribbean islands. In South America, they are patchy in the northwest and through the Andes, but widely distributed from southern Brazil to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Burrowing owls are year-round residents in most of their range. Birds that breed in Canada and the northern USA usually migrate south to Mexico and the southern USA during winter months.

King Vulture

A beautiful bird and one that is a must see. The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papainhabits an estimated 14 million km2 (5.4 million mi2) between southern Mexico and northern Argentina. In South America, it does not live west of the Andes, except in western Ecuador, north-western Colombia and far north-western Venezuela. It primarily inhabits undisturbed tropical lowland forests as well as savannas and grasslands with these forests nearby. It is often seen near swamps or marshy places in the forests. King vultures generally do not live above 1500 m (5000 ft), although are found in places at 2500 m (8000 ft) altitude east of the Andes, and have been rarely recorded up to 3300 m (10000 ft) They inhabit the emergent forest level, or above the canopy.

Black Vulture

You can find this vulture sometimes at the Animals in Action show on every day at 12:30 at the Zoo's amphitheatre. Here's a timed link to a recording I made of the show in which it features. You can sometimes meet them about the grounds too as they mingle with their keeper in the crowd (Zoo Link). The vultures are also shown off at the deadly birds live show. Here's a timed link to their appearance there too. This bird is really a very common sight in Colombia. Not a pretty bird but an important one in relation to Colombia nonetheless.

The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) has a Nearctic and Neotropic distribution. Its range includes the mid-Atlantic, including New Jersey, the southern United States, Mexico, Central America and most of South America. It is usually a permanent resident throughout its range, although birds at the extreme north of its range may migrate short distances, and others across their range may undergo local movements in unfavourable conditions. In South America, its range stretches to central Chile and Argentina. It also is found as a vagrant on the islands of the Caribbean. It prefers open land interspersed with areas of woods or brush. It is also found in moist lowland forests, shrublands and grasslands, wetlands and swamps, pastures, and heavily degraded former forests. Preferring lowlands, it is rarely seen in mountainous areas. It is usually seen soaring or perched on fence posts or dead trees.

Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle

This is a huge eagle-like "buzzard" ("hawk" in American terminology). It has a total length of 62 to 76 cm (24 to 30 in) and a wingspan of 149 to 200 cm (4 ft 11 to 6 ft 7 in). Geranoaetus melanoleucus are found in the Andes from NW Venezuela (Mérida) through Colombia (Cordillera Central, occasionally ranging into the Cordillera Occidental), Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and W Argentina to Tierra del Fuego. White with fine dark barring below. It is not very vocal, calling usually in flight and when close to the nest. Some calls resemble a wild human laugh, others are a curlew-like whistle. Occasionally flying birds give a high-pitched vocalization "kukukukuku". The black-chested buzzard-eagle was first described by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1819. You can view a section of a video I took at the zoo's deadly birds live show featuring this wonderful eagle.

Barn Owl

The barn owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed species of owl, and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as the common barn owl, to distinguish it from other species in its family, Tytonidae, which forms one of the two main lineages of living owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). The barn owl is found almost everywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Himalayas, most of Indonesia and some Pacific islands. The barn owl is a medium-sized, pale-coloured owl with long wings and a short, squarish tail. There is considerable size variation across the subspecies with a typical specimen measuring about 33 to 39 cm (13 to 15 in) in overall length, with a wingspan of some 80 to 95 cm (31 to 37 in). The barn owl is the most widespread landbird species in the world, occurring in every continent except Antarctica. Its range includes all of Europe (except Fennoscandia and Malta), most of Africa apart from the Sahara, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Australia, many Pacific Islands, North, Central and South America. Another clip of my video at the deadly birds live show features this owl.

Ring-Tailed Coati

Great bunch to watch here. When out and about they are constantly on the move, climbing trees and sniffing about their enclosure. Sometimes you can see them at the Animals in Action show. The South American coati is widespread in tropical and subtropical South America. Most of its distribution is in the lowlands east of the Andes (locally, it occurs as high as 2,500 m or 8,200 ft), from Colombia and The Guianas south to Uruguay and northern Argentina. The South American coati, or ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua), is a species of coati from tropical and subtropical South America. In Brazilian Portuguese, it is known as quati. First discovered by the explorer Sir Brian Doll in the late 1800s, while mapping an uncharted section of the Brazilian rainforest. The status of coatis west of the Andes has caused some confusion, but specimen records from west Ecuador, and north and west Colombia are South American coatis. The only documented records of white-nosed coatis in South America are from far north-western Colombia (Gulf of Urabá region, near Colombian border with Panama). The smaller mountain coatis are mainly found at altitudes above the South American coati, but there is considerable overlap. South American coatis are diurnal animals, and they live both on the ground and in trees. They typically live in the forest. They are omnivorous and primarily eat fruit, invertebrates, other small animals and bird eggs. Coatis typically sleep in the trees. Predators of the South American coati include foxes, jaguars, jaguarundis, domestic dogs, and people.


This little feller is a hard one to see. I'd say it is probably the hardest Colombia relevant species to see at London Zoo. First of all, it's a nocturnal creature which sleeps in a hard to see place within its enclosure. Secondly, it's housed within the Casson Pavilion (also known as Casson House), designed by Sir Hugh Casson and Neville Conder, it was opened as an elephant and rhinoceros house. Nowadays, the building is open only sometimes. It is shown but not listed on the zoo map. If you see the doors open (opposite the Children's Zoo) get in quick. Despite the smell, I personally really enjoy sitting in this building.

The kinkajou (Potos flavus) is a rainforest mammal. Native to Central America and South America, this mostly frugivorous, arboreal mammal is not an endangered species, though it is seldom seen by people because of its strict nocturnal habits. They are found in closed-canopy tropical forests, including lowland rainforest, montane forest, dry forest, gallery forest and secondary forest.

Black-Capped Squirrel Monkey

I admit that this variant is not Colombian. However, it is so much like the Saimiri sciureus (The Common Squirrel Monkey) that I thought I'd include it anyway. You'll find their enclosure in the far corner of the zoo called Meet The Monkeys. It is an open enclosure that allows visitors to come very close to these guys. There is practically no difference between the Colombian Saimiri sciureus and this the Saimiri boliviensis. Until 1984, all South American squirrel monkeys were generally considered part of a single widespread species, and many zoologists considered the Central American squirrel monkey to be a member of that single species as well.

Never the less the Zoo's Saimiri, The black-capped squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis) is a South American squirrel monkey, found in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

The Colombian variant being the Common Squirrel Monkey and can be found primarily in the Amazon Basin, including territories in the countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Animal Adventure

All these animals pictured here at the children's zoo are not indigenous to Colombia at all. However, they are very much a part of Colombian life. From Lamas on regular show at Bogotá's Plaza de Bolívar to working donkeys in rural Colombia. These are the only relevant Colombia animals you'll find at the children's zoo.


The wealth of live and interactive shows staged by the zoo daily are a must. Worthwhile attending as many as possible. The ones shown below are the Colombian relevant ones. Check the latest official show times here.

Animals in Action

A video I made myself featuring a good proportion of Colombian animals. The show has been going for Years and is a great place to see Colombian animals in action. The animals are not always the same but you can expect at least one animal featured above to feature whenever you go. Showtime is normally 12:30 everyday.

Rainforest Live

This is the best feel of Colombia from any show here at the ZSL, focus is very much the non-Colombian monkeys that roam the enclosure freely. There are some great mentions however from a number of indigenous Colombian species that make this a must from the Zoo shows. Daily at 14:30.

Deadly Birds Live

An amazing show that displays yet more Colombian animals. This on most days gives you access to two show only Colombian bird species. Shows normally on at 14:30 every day.

Big Fish

Here's a video I made of the Big Fish show that takes place daily at 15:30 in Hall 2 at the Aquarium. This is a good introductory show before you enter the Amazon Hall.


After going out of my way during every one of my many upon many London Zoo visits to see Colombian species, I have a few tips and tricks to make your visit go well and hopefully enable you to have a rewarding stay. If there are any tips and recommendations you'd like to share please contact me and I'll include them.

Arrive Early

This is my first and foremost tip. It is recommended too, that you be at the Zoo as soon as it opens. Opening time is always 10:00. Go straight to any of my above listed Colombian species and just savour the moment. The Zoo can be erratic with regards to visitor numbers. As long as you are outside school holidays and aim to visit on a weekday you will have a wonderful time with the displays all to yourself for good periods of time. The zoo lists days when they expect to be very busy at this page under their free parking exclusion. All this makes for a very enjoyable time as you work through any number of the Colombian species.

Visit by Canal

Although you can walk the long walk from either Camden or Regent's Park tube stations, or by the small 274 bus (Lancaster Gate to Islington Angel), I would highly recommend to at least once visit by canal-boat. The boat links the zoo directly with Little Venice (Maida Vale) and Camden Lock. You'll land directly below to the Rainforest enclosure where so many Colombian species live. You can find more information on the boat service at their website here, by phone: +442074822660 / +442074822550. or email:

Places to Eat

At the start of regularly visiting the Zoo, I would purchase food and drink throughout the grounds. The zoo has many locations where you can grab a bite to eat, sweet or drink. At the time there is also a very new eatery called the Terrace Restaurant. It can prove extremely costly eating anywhere in the zoo more than once or for family and groups. It is expensive for any normal person. Although the quality is good. I would highly recommend you bring food with you if only a sandwich and drink from a supermarket. My secret location for your own lunch is down by the canal (pictured below). It is a forgotten part of the zoo and will ensure your time away from the masses of school children and other hectic visitors. It is tranquil and very close to the Rainforest enclosure where a good number of Colombian species live. If the weather is not good you can use a table upstairs within the main Terrace Restaurant. I have done this many a times without a word. Otherwise, I recommend the Blackburn Pavilion. It has seating, is warm and never really busy. Kind of reminiscent of the Amazon. All these places recommended are great for visitors with children too. I've pinpointed these places in my Google map specifically for this post.

Attend the Shows

The next best part about visiting the Zoo after seeing the huge number of species are these listed Live Shows. Fortunately a large portion of which features a good number of Colombian species making the visit even more relevant. A small tip is if you stick around after the show whilst the staff are packing up, gives a great opportunity to talk to them about the Colombian animals featured. I've pinpointed these places in my Google map specifically for this post.

Take the Kids

One of the main reason I wrote this article is to bring UK born Colombian children in touch with the creatures of the homeland. Giving them the opportunity claim and experiences the wildlife that makes so much of Colombia so great. The zoo is geared very much towards younger visitors and there's enough of a variety of things to do and see at the zoo to make any visit go well. The Terrace Restaurant has a microwave that makes children's food brought from home a synch to prepare. The toilets throughout a fine with good children's facilities. During the Summer there are open water fountains for children in the Animal Adventure grounds near the Colombian Coatis featured here. All the shows are engaging for children especially the Animals in Action and Deadly Birds Live shows. In these two shows, the birds swoop over your head. Also, near to the water fountains in the Animal Adventure grounds are the relevant Black-Capped Squirrel Monkey. The enclosure for these monkeys is superb in that visitors are able to walk amongst them. So many aspects will make seeing Colombian species with other fun activities a memorable and education visit. I've pinpointed these places in my Google map specifically for this post.

Find the Unusual

Rather than grind the path between each of the above listed Colombian species locations I would like to ask that you allow yourself some free roaming. Even in and around the enclosures and houses listed. You'll find a secret lift that'll give you a unique view of the rainforest or see new and moved species not shown here... You really wouldn't want to miss a new or relocated Colombian animal because you were too busy darting between locations. Remember, I had absolutely no information on where any of these Colombian species were. I found them all through adventure. Here's my map.

Get Annual Membership

I appreciate most people will read this and see many of the animals within one visit. If you can, however, I highly recommend you get a membership to the zoo. It'll give you unlimited access for a Year. Plus a few other perks. Visiting all the animals mentioned here on a regular basis will give you a sincere attachment to many of them. You'll become accustomed to their habits and behaviours. Visiting at different times and days will occasionally give you the chance to see their keepers. More information is here at the zoo's official membership page.

Thank You

Thank you to you all for reading this far through. I would be very happy to hear from anyone that made a visit to see any of the Colombian relevant species. I am still actively involved in visiting the zoo and following all the species. I will try to where possible keep this information up to date. I would very much appreciate any information you know off regarding anything in this article. Contacting me is easy, social media channels or easier by my contact page. Please take the time to follow me on Twitter, facebook and Instagram. I post regularly any many aspects of my interactions with all things Colombian.


I have since posted a nice addition to this post focused on a multitude of other ways to see Colombian animal species in London. You will find it here: Hot Stepping further through Colombian Animal Species in London.

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