London Zoo issues stark conservation message with handbag display in crocodile enclosure

London Zoo has gone viral online after a visitor shared a picture they took of the zoo’s crocodile enclosure, which featured a handbag as part of a stark message on the importance of conservation.

The enclosure was supposed to feature a Siamese crocodile – a critically endangered species of reptile native to countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia – but instead of the animal, a large brown handbag made from crocodile skin was sitting in the centre of the glass container.

London Zoo, which is the world’s oldest scientific zoo and is found within Regent’s Park in the UK capital, had even put a placard in place to let people know about the Siamese crocodile, including facts about why the animals are now so rare in the wild, MyLondon reports.

On the sign, zoo staff had written: “This bag used to be found swimming in slow-moving rivers and streams across Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

“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.”

And the zoo-goer who posted the image on Twitter was quick to praise the zoo for not holding back when it comes to making sure people are aware of the damaging effect poaching and other parts of the illegal wildlife trade can have on the animal kingdom.

They wrote in their tweet: “London zoo not p***ing around.”

Other commenters on the Twitter post were equally as thrilled to see the zoo stepping up to show people how important their conservation work is in saving animals like the Siamese crocodile.

One person said: “That’s the kind of zoo I can get behind! No live caged animals, just the consequences of humans.”

While another added: “This is art. We need more unexpected activism from ‘normal’ places like this. Even though usually the zoo has some sort of conservation connection, this level of ‘shock’ is [chef’s kiss].”

Meanwhile, some people said London zoo isn’t the first to use their enclosures to send a message, with one even comparing it to an old exhibit at the Bronx zoo in New York City, where they claimed to house the “most dangerous animal in the world” – which consisted of a mirror.

Another commenter posted: “My local aquarium did something like this, filled a tank full of plastic. I know when it opened that it had fish in it, I think this was a cheaper way of upkeep while also being seen to show a message.”

There were also a few people who saw the display as a joke and decided to quip that they would simply break the glass and run away with the expensive handbag.

One said: “I’d smash the glass, grab, and run.”

While another wrote: “Gorgeous bag though.”