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The enclosure was supposed to feature a Siamese crocodile - a critically endangered species of reptile native to countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
However, instead of the animal, the glass container houses a large brown handbag made from its skin, with a placard explaining why the animals are now so rare in the wild.
It reads: “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.”
The bag was seized by UK border officials at a London airport back in 2018 and handed to the zoo in order to highlight the impact that the illegal wildlife trade is having across the globe.
The display has been in place for the past few years, but it recently went viral after a visitor shared a photograph of it to Twitter.
The post has sparked a renewed interest in the illegal trade, with many comments online praising the zoo for their efforts to raise awareness of its damaging effects on the animal kingdom.
One person wrote: “That’s the kind of zoo I can get behind! No live caged animals, just the consequences of humans.”
Reptile and amphibian curator Dr Ben Tapley said he was pleased that awareness was spreading.
He said: “It’s great to have all these fantastic animals here but the handbag has caught people’s eye.
“We wanted to educate our visitors about it and create a talking point. Anything which shines a spotlight on the illegal trade is great.”
London Zoo, which is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, houses a number of critically endangered species, many of which are species targeted by illegal wildlife traders.
It works with governments and communities across the world to protect wildlife, support law enforcement that targets trafficking networks, and reduce demand for threatened species.
Since 2002, the 196-year-old zoo, located within Regent’s Park in central London, has provided a home for more than 3,000 animals confiscated by the UK Border Force as part of its work at airports and ports.
These exotic inhabitants include Egyptian tortoises, red rain frogs, green tree pythons and hundreds of corals.