London Zoo in London

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London Zoo is the world's oldest scientific zoo. It was opened in London on 27 April 1828, and was originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study. It was eventually opened to the public in 1847. The Society also has a more spacious site at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire to which the larger animals such as elephants and rhinos have been moved. As well as being the first scientific zoo, ZSL London Zoo also opened the first Reptile house (1849), first public Aquarium (1853),


ZSL was established by Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphrey Davy in 1826,

It was believed that tropical animals could not survive outside in London's cold weather and so they were all kept indoors until 1902, when Dr Peter Chalmers Mitchell was appointed secretary of the Society.

One benefit of the 'swell of public support' was the development of volunteer staff. Employed by both Education and Animal care, these volunteers give one day a week to assist the running of London Zoo and can be recognised by their red sweaters.

Areas and attractions

The Zoo has almost (2011) completed a renovation project aimed at replacing cages with enclosures which recreate animals' natural environments, giving a better lifestyle to the animals, and a more realistic experience to visitors. In 2005 the "African Bird Safari" and "Meet The Monkeys" walkthroughs opened and in 2006 "Into Africa" and "Butterfly Paradise" exhibits opened, while in Easter 2007 the Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the new "Gorilla Kingdom" and "Clore Rainforest Lookout" a walkthrough rainforest replacing the small mammals building. During Easter 2008 the Bird House reopened as a tropical rainforest called the "Blackburn Pavilion".

The 'Ambika Paul' Children's Zoo closed in September 2008, and was replaced by the "Animal Adventure" in April 2009.

In the latter half of 2010, the old Parrot House and tearooms - built in the 1860s - along with the penguin pool were demolished to make way for 'Penguin Beach'. The new penguin attraction provides an improved environment for the animals and better public viewing areas, with 'see through' side panels to observe the penguins swimming and diving. Just behind the raised viewing area is a reminder of the parrot house, with the original date (1868) carving atop an ornamental doorway.

Group Number of species Number of animals
Mammals 77 310
Birds 113 548
Reptiles 77 309
Amphibians 23 197
Fishes 213 5458
Invertebrates 252 8272
Total 755 15104

African Bird Safari

The African Bird Safari opened in Easter 2005 as a redevelopment of the Stork and Ostrich House, replacing three out-of-date enclosures.

Species on display include Abdim's stork, superb starlings, Madagascar teals, Von der Decken's hornbills, lilac-breasted roller and blue-bellied roller.

Animal Adventure

Previously, the Ambika Paul Children's Zoo was based on two sections: the Pet Care Centre and the Paddock. Both provided a hands-on experience aimed at children. At the ZSL AGM in June 2008, it was announced that the Children's Zoo would close in September 2008 to be replaced by 'Animal Adventure' which was opened by the Society's president on 2 April 2009. On opening, it featured animals such as aardvarks, prairie dogs, red pandas, coatis, yellow mongooses, meerkats and porcupines. This on the site of the former Children's Zoo and includes much of the structure of this earlier facility. Red pandas have since been removed from the collection.


There has been an aquarium at the Zoo since 1853 and was the first aquarium to be established in the world. The word 'aquarium' also originates at London Zoo, beforehand the term for a fish enclosure was 'Aquatic Vivarium'.

  1. The first hall contains species involved in various conservation projects, such as captive-breeding programmes and other ZSL-based initiatives. These include species such as rudd, European eels, pink sea fans, spiny starfish and seahorses.
  2. The second hall is a coral reef habitat with tropical species from across the globe, including copperband butterflyfish and clownfish.
  3. The third hall contains Amazon fish including electric eels, glass knifefish, lungfish and stingray.

The aquarium also includes the Big Fish Tank which holds fish rescued from private homes that had insufficient equipment to look after the fish. This includes catfish, tucunare, tambaqui and pirapitinga. The breeding room is also visible to the public. Displaying over 140 species, including leaf-cutter ants, Mexican redknee tarantulas, flamboyant flower beetles, anteaters and Malaysian giant stick insects. Since 98% of all known animal life are invertebrates the majority of the species on display are also invertebrates.

Species on display include clipper butterfly, great eggfly butterfly, zebra longwing and postman butterfly.

Clore Rainforest Lookout

The Clore Rainforest Lookout was opened by Dame Vivien Duffield in May 2007. The Lookout replaces the Charles Clore Pavilion for Mammals, which was built in 1967, with the aid of the Clore Duffield Foundation.

The exhibit recreates the South American rainforest and provides canopy and forest floor levels for the public to wander through.

Giants of the Galapagos

Giants of the Galapagos was opened in 2009 and is home to three Galapagos Tortoises: Dirk, Dolly and Dolores. The exhibit features a large indoor house, with heated pond and underfloor heating. A large outdoor paddock has two heated water bodies (one being a naturalistic clay wallow) and has been landscaped to mimic the tortoises natural environment.

Gorilla Kingdom

Gorilla Kingdom is a 6000 m2 exhibit which opened in Easter 2007. It is a 5.3-million pound development that took 18 months to build (funded from the estate of the late Darlene Welch - a zoo volunteer), was officially opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh on 29 March 2007, and opened to the public on 30 March 2007. There are currently four gorillas in the enclosure:Kesho, a 12-year-old male, Zaire, a 36-year-old female, Effie, a 17-year-old female and Mjukuu, a 12-year-old female brought in from Chessington. The area also holds black-and-white colobus monkeys.

The exhibit was inspired by a conservation project that is managed by ZSL in Gabon. It has been planted with plants and herbs that the gorillas can eat while the island itself represents a natural forest clearing in the Central African rainforest.

Visitors to the exhibit learn about the plight of western lowland gorillas in the wild and conservation of rainforests, while being separated from the animals on the island by a moat or a floor to ceiling window.

Bongo Junior, a male silverback known as 'Bobby' to visitors, was found dead on the morning of 5 December 2008 by a keeper. He was one of the most popular animals at the Zoo.

Happy Families

A section wity the small meerkats, oriental small clawed otters and ring-tailed lemurs, animals we see at all the world's zoos.

Into Africa

Into Africa opened on 1 April 2006, and features a high level viewing platform to bring the public face-to-face with the giraffes.

After a survey found that 95% of visitors preferred enclosures without bars, the decision was made to use glass windows instead to bring the public closer to the animals and gain a more intimate experience. mimics a dry river bed with a curving 20 m glass wall. There is one adult dragon, Raja, and two babies. The Komodo dragons were introduced as part of the European Conservation Breeding Programme.

Mappin Terraces

When the Mappin Terraces opened in 1913, In the past it has been home to Polar bears, Ibex and other mountain creatures.

The Mappin Terraces is currently displaying an Australian outback display, home to wallabies and emus and the possibility of expansion in the future.

Meet The Monkeys

Meet The Monkeys is a 1500 m2 enclosure which was opened on 21 March 2005 by Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, of The Mighty Boosh. The exhibit is open, with no roof, and no boundaries between the public and animals. Designed to recreate the Bolivian Rainforest, it holds black-capped squirrel monkeys which are part of the European Conservation Breeding Programme.

The Zoos outer boundary had to be increased to accommodate the new enclosure, encroaching into Regent's Park to the south-east.


A New London Zoo exhibit located near the Aquarium. It includes wallabies and emus.

Penguin Beach

A new exhibit opened 2011 featuring Blackfooted and Rockhopper penguins.

Reptile House

The Reptile House opened in 1927 and was designed by Joan Beauchamp Procter and Sir Edward Guy Dawber. Arnold Burton was the engineer.

Over the years a variety of birds have been kept in the aviary from birds of prey to waterfowl. The current birds in the aviary include green peafowl, sacred ibis, little egrets, cattle egrets, night herons, waldrapp, ducks, pigeons and African grey-headed gulls.

Zoo World

Built around the Casson Pavilion, originally the old Elephant and Rhino House, Zoo World is now home to bearded pigs, African Porcupines, bactrian camels and also provides a winter home for the pygmy hippos. Previously this house was a temporary home to monkeys and birds while the Clore Rainforest Lookout and Blackburn Pavilion was built.

Inside the house displays inform visitors about the zoo and its various conservation programs.

Notable animals

Throughout its history the Zoo has had many well-known residents. These may have been scientifically important individuals or simply beloved by the public.

The Zoo was home to the only living quagga ever to be photographed, before the species became extinct in the wild due to hunting in southern Africa in about 1870. Another now extinct species the Zoo held was a number of thylacines, or marsupial wolves.

The first hippopotamus to be seen in Europe since the Roman Empire, and the first in England since prehistoric times, arrived at London Zoo in May 1850 as a gift from the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt in exchange for some greyhounds and deerhounds. The hippo was named Obaysch and led to a doubling of the Zoo's visitors that year.

In 1865, Jumbo, the largest elephant known at the time, was transferred to the Zoo from Jardin des Plantes in Paris. His name, possibly from Jambo, swahili for hello, became an epithet for anything of large size, such as Boeing's 747 Jumbo jet. He unfortunately became aggressive in old age, and had to stop giving rides; he was sold to Phineas Barnum's circus, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, in 1882, where he was later crushed by a locomotive and killed.

Winnipeg bear (or Winnie) was an American black bear given to the Zoo in 1914 by a Canadian Lieutenant, Harry Colebourn. A. A. Milne visited with his son Christopher Robin, and the boy was so enamoured with the bear Milne wrote the famous series of books for him entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.

Guy, a western lowland gorilla, arrived at the Zoo on Guy Fawkes Night (hence the name) 1947 from Paris Zoo, and lived at the Zoo until his death in 1978. Over his 32-year life he became one of the Zoo's best-loved residents. After years of trying to find a mate, in 1969 five-year-old Lomie arrived from Chessington Zoo. They were kept separated for a year to adjust to each other, until they were finally united. Although they got on well together they never produced any offspring.

Today the Zoo holds the only population of humming birds in the United Kingdom in the Blackburn Pavilion.


Since its earliest days, the zoo has prided itself on appointing leading architects to design its buildings, today it holds two Grade I, and eight Grade II listed structures.

The initial grounds were laid out in 1828 by Decimus Burton, the Zoo's first official architect from 1826 to 1841, made famous for his work on the Coliseum Theatre and Marble Arch.

The Snowdon Aviary, built in 1964 by Cedric Price, Lord Snowdon and Frank Newby, made pioneering use of aluminium and tension for support. A year later the Casson Pavilion, designed by Sir Hugh Casson and Neville Conder, was opened as an elephant and rhinoceros house.

In 2000, the Burmese python scene from the 2001 film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was filmed at the Zoo's Reptile House. In the film the inhabitant of the tank is a Burmese python, however in reality it is home to a black mamba. A plaque beside the enclosure commemorates the event.

A couple of scenes were filmed here for the ITV series Primeval. The first was a confrontation between Helen Cutter and Claudia Brown in the old elephant house. The second was a brief scene that showed Abby Maitland with a Komodo Dragon. Although the fictional Wellington Zoo played a large role in the episode, most scenes were filmed at Whipsnade Zoo. -->

In the final scene from the 1987 film Withnail and I a sad Withnail is shown standing in the pouring rain next to the former wolf enclosure, declaiming the speech What a piece of work is a man from Hamlet.

Part of the 1985 film Turtle Diary, based on the novel by Russell Hoban and starring Ben Kingsley and Glenda Jackson, was also filmed here; the film follows a plan to help two of the turtles escape from the Zoo.

The music video for the Talk Talk song "It's My Life" was filmed at London Zoo in 1984. The video was used as a statement against the banality of lip-syncing and includes mostly footage from nature documentaries with shots of lead singer Mark Hollis in the Zoo keeping his mouth shut, obscured by hand-drawn animated lines.

During the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London, the lead character David Kessler (played by David Naughton) woke up naked in the wolves' enclosure. Several other animals are also seen and you can clearly see the old caged enclosures of the tigers and apes.

A scene from the 1964 film The Pumpkin Eater with Anne Bancroft and James Mason was also set at the Zoo.


The nearest London Underground station is Camden Town on the Northern Line. Baker Street and Regent's Park lie about 1.5 km across Regent's Park. The Zoo is served by the 274 bus route.

A regular waterbus service operates along the Regent's Canal from the zoo. Boats depart every hour during the summer months (with a reduced winter service), heading westwards to Little Venice or eastwards towards Camden Lock.


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