After months of anticipation, London Zoo finally opened its new 'Teenager' exhibit on Saturday.
The state-of-the-art exhibit, constructed over the past 10 months at a cost of £6.5 million, drew record crowds to the zoo this weekend. Loitering teens are indigenous to many urban and suburban areas across the UK, but this is the first time they have been captured for display in a public zoo.
"They are fascinating," said Peter Crook, 46, a member of the London Zoo board of directors and the man who oversaw the development of the exhibit. "The public will enjoy watching them hang out and smoke in an attractive natural setting."
The teenage exhibit faithfully recreates the species' natural habitat, boasting a city-street facade that features a full-scale replica video arcade, piercing parlor and a Nando's. A special "concrete park" area, suitable for skateboarding, has also been included to give the teens exercise.
According to London Zoo director of exhibits David Brennan, the zoo's 15 loitering-teen specimens appear to enjoy their new home and are responding well to their three daily feedings of Chips and Stella Artois lager.
"They're really adjusting nicely," Brennan said. "They've already started to spit and shout out 'Yo Mother' at passers by, and I think that, within a couple of weeks, they'll be just about ready to start sending threatening texts on their mobile phones."
Despite the relatively smooth adjustment, one lesson zoo officials learned quickly was not to introduce older humans into the teenagers pen. When this happened, Brennan said, the teens became enraged and ran around the cage screaming, "Go away, you just don't understand me".
Also of concern to zoo officials are the mating rituals of the teens, who appear to be awkward and ill-at-ease around members of the opposite sex. "We're hoping to get them to mate," Brennan said. "But, thus far, all they seem interested in doing is shoplifting magazines and hiding from someone they call 'The Filth'"
The London Zoo's newest arrivals are a hit with the public. Plastic-toy replicas of the loitering teens are a best-seller at the zoo gift shop, and there is talk of opening a petting area so humans can interact with them on a limited basis.
"I like the one in the Burberry cap," said zoo visitor Jenny Wright, 9. "He's got funny red dots all over his face."
If last weekend's visitor numbers continue, the teenager exhibit has a chance at surpassing "Women In Our Midst" as the biggest draw in zoo history.