A Trip to the Zoo with a Whiskey or Two!

60 keen veterinary students from the Liverpool University Veterinary Zoological Society (LUVZS) descended on Edinburgh for a long anticipated weekend of hot toddies and pandas!

Me, Beth and Ashley arrived at Liverpool Limestreet station bright and early on Thursday morning to begin our Scottish shenanigans. Armed with kindle’s, coffees and work we had no intention of doing we boarded our train and settled in for a pretty long and uneventful journey.

I have to say, I didn’t really know what to expect on our trip as admittedly I hadn’t set foot in Scotland since the university open days and hadn’t been back since both universities had rudely rejected my applications to vet school…. Not that I’m at all bitter about that! However seeing as I have now, by some miracle made it through 2 years of vet school at Liverpool, I feel I can now enter the country without university admissions on the brain!

When we arrived it was an uncharacteristically gorgeous day for Scotland in February, so we made the most of the sun and went to explore the city centre, went to the castle and of course sought out a Scottish bagpipe player and took an obligatory selfie. In fact, the warmth took us all by surprise and within minutes we were all as red as the bagpipe player and furiously trying to get out of the many precautionary layers we’d put on that morning to keep warm.

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Copyright to Ashley Clayton

I decided that weekend that Beth was on a work out mission which extended to involving us all, she marched off with great purpose with me and Ashley trotting behind her and not once did she fail to find the longest route with the most stairs to any destination. It was quite an accomplishment on her part really ….

After purchasing some bling from the local markets we decided to visit the café where JK Rowling gave birth to Harry Potter. We did the obligatory tourist / Potter-hard fan photo before sitting down for a brew. Unfortunately, I feel if JK had entered the café now to begin her book, Harry Potter may not have been the roaring success it was as the beverages were rather sub-standard and expensive (no one can write a good book on that!). It appeared the café was now more bothered about being the birth-place of Harry potter than serving decent café fare.

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Copyright to Ashley Clayton

We decided to spend the first night in Edinburgh in true Scottish fashion and went for a drink. As an incredibly nesh person I approved greatly of the Scottish culture of going out in comfy shoes and a warm coat, I’m not sure the scouse girls with their skyscraper heels and tiny dresses would cope well in this climate but it suited me fine! With a few whiskies under our belt to ward off the cold we decided to tag along with a ghost walk where an amusing Frenchman took us on a tour through Edinburgh’s grizzly past. It was light hearted, educational and most importantly for us poor students … FREE! The tour ended in the graveyard where famous gave robbers Burke and Hare were rumoured to have started their unusual “side-line” business.

Late that night we were awoken by the (not so) hushed entrance of our fellow LUVZS members who had had to bribe a coachman to take them the rest of the way from where the train had helpfully stopped running.

The next day the entire LUVZS clan caused utter chaos on the buses ordering 60 student singles to Edinburgh zoo. Edinburgh is the only UK zoo to own a pair of pandas and everyone was keen to catch a glimpse of the bamboo eating bears. The glimpse we got was not quite what we’d hoped for as unfortunately the pandas were clearly not in the mood to be papped, though the male …. Kindly presented us with his lovely black and white derriere for us to photograph.

As part of our visit we had a brilliant and well humoured talk delivered by Edinburgh’s head vet, Simon Girling. He discussed his role in the zoo, their aims for the future regarding breeding, conservation and their reintroduction and management programs. He left us with a few words of wisdom, to help us through our veterinary career …. ‘the smaller it is the feistier it’s likely to be.’ which I think we are all fast finding out from our experiences on EMS (personally hamsters strike the fear of god into me)! Next we were given a talk about animal behaviour in the zoological collection and how they analyse and interpret the behaviour of different animals to assess their well-being. We were then able to try our hand at behaviour analysis ourselves when we were wandering round the zoo. Jack took to this task with great vigour and was marching round with a clipboard enthusiastically noting down movement patterns for all the animals. Jack is currently the envy of most of the LUVZS crew as the lucky devil has managed to swindle a place at Chester zoo tracking the behaviour of their black Rhinos for his third year research project and therefore was keen to get some practice in at marking behaviour patterns.

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The zoo itself was pretty spectacular, the terrain was quite rugged and mountainous compared to the very flat geography of Chester zoo which the LUVZS members all know and love. We were lucky enough to see the feeding of the Lions which was fantastic to watch as they fought for the best cuts of meat and stalked around the compound trying to find their well-hidden dinner. It was nice to see that many of the grazing animals were kept together on a large marshy plain, rather in the style of the new comer zoo Yorkshire Wildlife Park. It seemed like quite a natural way of keeping the hoof stock and seemed to provide the animals with natural enrichment from interacting with each other.

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copyright to Beth Dixon

That evening a few of us went out for a few more hot toddies and to sample some traditional Scottish fare. We all bravely got stuck in and all tried the haggis in various forms and I have to admit, we were all surprised we quite liked it! Beth even took some home to recreate the haggis stuffed chicken we had four our housemates. The evening was finished off with more alcohol – what can I say? We’re students, we can’t help ourselves! We spent the night romping round the city on a bar crawl getting merrier after each bar we went in and trying to ward off the advances of a very persistent German fellow who seemed to think the way to go about impressing us ladies was to insult the way the English say things …. I feel his pulling tactics may need some work, but maybe that’s just me! We had an amazing night of drinking and dancing before crawling into bed (after raiding the hostel kitchen for hot chocolates) at about 3am.

The next day, nursing hangovers, everyone had the opportunity to explore the city at their leisure, me and Beth had a mosey round a few more shops and went for a much needed chilli hot chocolate before it was time for us to catch our train and head back to Liverpool.

Overall it was an amazing experience and a pioneering trip for LUVZS as the society had never before ventured so far away from Merseyside! Everyone came back with amusing tales to tell and some fantastic photographs (which I have now stolen to put on this blog!) to commemorate our maiden overnight trip as a society. I think we can safely say that LUVZS will be organising more adventures in years to come and I feel very honoured to have been part of organising the first one!

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(Images copyright to Bethany Dixon and Ashley Clayton as I got too over-excited to take photos! )

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