The Budapest Zoo somehow manages to segue kitschy ethno-tat into Hitchcockian terror into a thoroughly wholesome day out which at no point prods your animal welfare panic button, as some of our European cousin’s slightly more, shall we say, laissez-faire, attitude to animal conservation is prone to do. No scraggy, dead-eyed Siberian tigers here, only a gorilla eating its own shit, which, I’m told, is completely natural.
The place seems to have that masochist-zoophobic-with-a-keen-appreciation-for-high-camp market cornered, housing Komodo dragons, cockroaches, a black widow spider and a green mamba in enclosures apparently inspired by the set of The Crystal Maze. There’s a suitably fetid palm house, with a mezzanine level dangling precariously over a pair of nasty alligators, where flying foxes, with binbag wings folded, Dracula-style, get some kip overhead. On the purpose-built concrete “mountain” piles of raw meat engorged by bluebottles await kestrels for luncheon. In the Petting Zoo, frenetic toddlers give Benny Hill chase to bearded goats and bunny wabbits. In the midst of this, the brown bear chews on a mangelica leg, not too bothered by the indignity of his captioner’s thoroughly A.A. Milne take on the ursidae.