While most Slough residents will be settling down to a festive spread this Christmas Day, former St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School pupil Veronica Heldt will be celebrating with a very different family this year: the animals at ZSL London Zoo.

Although December 25th is the one day of the year that the world-famous zoo is closed to the public, ZSL zookeeper Veronica - who looks after the Zoo’s llamas, pygmy goats, coatis and owls - will have a full schedule of feeding, cleaning and preparing activities for the animals.

“Christmas Day is the only day of the year that the Zoo closes, so it’s a treat to have the place to ourselves as we get to spend even more one-on-one time with the animals we look after,” explains Veronica, 37, who grew up in Merton Road before joining the Zoo crew in 2005.

"We like to make it a festive day for all, by placing their breakfast or lunch in a brightly wrapped box, or a tube wrapped to look like a cracker: it’s great for them to use their natural skills to ‘open’ their presents - like kids do on Christmas morning!”

The Zoo’s teams often meet for a quick festive eggnog after work, before they all go off to enjoy the evening with their families – before reopening to the public the following day.

"Boxing Day is a great day to come to the zoo,” explains Veronica. “So if you’re in London over the festive season, come and visit - it’s the perfect way to walk off Christmas lunch with the family, or make a little more room for a few extra chocolates!”

There are more than 18,000 animals to see and indoor exhibits including the Reptile House, Butterfly Paradise and Rainforest Life. Book tickets at www.zsl.org.