|Date opened||27 April 1828|
|Coordinates||51°32′08″N 00°09′21″W / 51.53556°N 0.15583°WCoordinates: 51°32′08″N 00°09′21″W / 51.53556°N 0.15583°W|
|Land area||36 acres (15 ha)|
|No. of animals||19,289 (2018)|
|No. of species||673 (2018)|
|Annual visitors||1,078,519 (2019)|
|Memberships||BIAZA, EAZA, WAZA|
|Major exhibits||Gorilla Kingdom, Animal Adventure, Blackburn Pavilion, Clore Rainforest Lookout, Into Africa, Tiger territory, Land of the Lions and Penguin Beach.|
London Zoo, previously known as ZSL London Zoo or London Zoological Gardens and sometimes called Regent's Park 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. In 1831 or 1832, the animals of the Tower of London menagerie were transferred to the zoo's collection. It was opened to the public in 1847. As of Dec 2022, it houses a collection of 14,926 individuals, making it one of the largest collections in the United Kingdom.
It is managed under the aegis of the Zoological Society of London (established in 1826), and is situated at the northern edge of Regent's Park, on the boundary line between the City of Westminster and the borough of Camden (the Regent's Canal runs through it). The Society also has a more spacious site at 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, London Zoo also opened the first reptile house (1849), first
ZSL receives no state funding and relies on 'Fellows' and 'Friends' memberships, entrance fees, venue hire, and sponsorship to generate income.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was established by
It was believed that tropical animals could not survive outside in London's cold weather, so they were all kept indoors until 1902, when Peter Chalmers Mitchell was appointed secretary of the Society. He set about a major reorganisation of the buildings and enclosures of the zoo, bringing many of the animals out into the open, where many thrived. This was an idea inspired by Hamburg Zoo, and led to newer designs to many of the buildings. Mitchell also envisaged a new 600-acre (240 ha) park to the north of London, and in 1926 Hall Farm, near to Whipsnade village, was bought. In 1931, Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, the world's first open zoological park, opened. The first woman to be a curator at London Zoo was Evelyn Cheesman, in 1920.
Second World War 1939–1945
After the start of the
In 1962, 'Caroline', an Arabian oryx, was lent to Phoenix Zoo, Arizona, US, in the world's first international co-operative breeding programme. Today, the zoo participates in breeding programmes for over 130 species.
In the 1980s, London Zoo housed 8,000 animals of more than 900 species, and in the 1990s the zoo possessed 7,000 animals of 850 species; the next biggest collection in Britain was Chester Zoo, with just under 3,500 animals. Many of the species in London Zoo could not be seen anywhere else in the country, such as the wombat, Tasmanian devil or long-nosed potoroo. Although this vast collection was part of the zoo's appeal, it may also have been one of the main causes of its financial problems. This contributed to the zoo being faced with closure in the 1980s. Due to the public change of attitude to animals kept in captivity and unsuitably cramped space, the zoo also suffered dwindling visitor numbers. However, when it was announced that London Zoo would close in 1991, a swell of public support in visitors and donations allowed the zoo to continue its work, attempt to balance its books, and take on the huge task of restoring its buildings and creating environments more suitable for animal behaviour in the late 20th century.
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 pullovers.
During the covid epidemic that started in 2020, the zoo closed from 21 March to 15 June 2021, causing a "perilous financial position" due to loss of revenue.
The Snowdon Aviary was redeveloped as Monkey Valley, opening in 2022.
Areas and attractions
The Zoo has many named areas and attractions. Several of them are available for hire outside the zoo's opening hours, including The Terrace, Penguin Beach, Tiny Giants, Land of the Lions, Tiger Territory, and Attenborough Komodo Dragon House.
|Group||Number of species||Number of individuals|
The Snowdon Aviary was designed by Cedric Price, Frank Newby and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, built between 1962–64, and opened in 1965. It was Britain's first public, walk-through aviary, and primarily housed shorebirds such as gulls and ibis. It is constructed with a pyramidal aluminium framework reaching 21m high. In 2021, the aviary was re-developed into a walkthrough enclosure called "Monkey Valley", which opened to the public in August 2022 and houses a troop of eastern black and white colobus monkeys. The structure is now heritage listed.
Land of the Lions
Land of the Lions is London Zoo's
Tiger Territory is London Zoo's Sumatran tiger enclosure, designed by architect Michael Kozdon and officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in March 2013. The zoo currently owns five tigers, a male named Asim, a female named Gaysha, and their two cubs born in June 2022, named Zac and Crispin.. The enclosure is 2,500 square metres (27,000 square feet) in size, and features authentic Indonesian plant life, as well as a net canopy of 3mm steel cable supported by four metal poles.
The Casson Pavilion
The Casson Pavilion is one of the zoo’s Grade II listed buildings and was designed by architect Sir Hugh Casson between 1962-1965. It was originally built to house
Opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in March 2007, Gorilla Kingdom consists of a moated island, home to a group of western lowland gorillas. The zoo currently owns 6 gorillas: two adult females named Mjuuku and Effie, an infant female named Alika (the daughter of Mjuuku and former silverback Kumbuka) born in December 2014, and an infant male named Gernot born in November 2015. The Gorilla Kingdom area also features smaller enclosures housing white-naped mangabeys Celebes crested macaques and Diana monkeys.
Into Africa is an Africa-themed area opened in April 2006. Animals on display in this area include Chapman's zebras, common warthogs, okapis, Rothschild's giraffes, pygmy hippos and African wild dogs and a Burchell's zebra. London Zoo's Giraffe House was first built in 1837, and is the world's oldest zoo building that is still used for its original purpose. The current giraffe enclosure features a high-level viewing platform to give the public face-to-face contact with the giraffes. The Giraffe House is heritage listed.
Rainforest Life and Night Life
Rainforest Life is a walk-through indoor exhibit that houses many species of South American
The Mappin Terraces opened in 1913, and features an artificial rocky cliff made of concrete blocks for animal enrichment. This was the zoo's first major attempt at recreating natural environments without bars, influenced by European zoos such as Tierpark Hagenbeck, and many different species have been kept in this enclosure during its lifetime, including bears, penguins, sheep, goats, kangaroos, leopards, and wild boar. The Mappin Terraces is currently an Australia-themed exhibit called "The Outback", housing emus and red-necked wallabies.
The former Aquarium
There was an
The aquarium was separated into three halls, each home to different types of fish and other aquatic wildlife. The first hall primarily contained freshwater species such as
Animal Adventure (formerly called the Ambika Paul Children's Zoo) opened in 2009 and is an area aimed primarily at children, featuring playgrounds and a water fountain. It was built after a child who loved visiting the zoo with her family, Ambika Paul, died from cancer. Her parents donated £1,000,000 to the zoo to build a children’s zoo in her honor. Many of the animals in Animal Adventure are domestic animals, such as llamas, alpacas, and goats, as well as kunekune pigs. Exotic species on display include Cape porcupines, South American coatis and yellow mongooses.
At approximately 6am on Saturday 23 December 2017, a large fire started at Animal Adventure. It was brought under control by 9:30am after spreading to the cafe/shop there, three quarters of which was estimated to have been severely damaged. A nine-year-old aardvark named Misha was pronounced dead, and four meerkats were declared unaccounted for and presumed dead. The zoo reopened on Christmas Eve.
The Reptile House
One of London Zoo's most well-known buildings, the Reptile House opened in 1927 and was designed by
Giants of the Galápagos
Giants of the Galápagos was opened in 2009 to coincide with the 200th birthday of
The Attenborough Komodo Dragon House
Tiny Giants, formerly called B.U.G.S.) is an exhibit featuring invertebrates and fish. It is held in a building called The Millennium Conservation Centre, and the building displays over 160 species, including
Penguin Beach opened on 26 May 2011 and houses Humboldt penguins. A single male northern rockhopper penguin named Ricky also lived there until he was moved to Whipsnade Zoo in March 2017. The pool itself is the largest penguin pool with penguins in an English zoo.
In with the Lemurs
Opened in March 2015, In with the Lemurs is a walk-through exhibit housing a group of
Meet the Monkeys
Opened by comedians Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh in 2005, Meet the Monkeys is a walk-through enclosure that houses a troop of black-capped squirrel monkeys. The exhibit has no roof, and there are no boundaries between the monkeys and the visitors. It is the southernmost enclosure in the zoo.
Opened in May 2006, Butterfly Paradise houses several different species of butterfly and moth from around the world, as well as plant species specially selected to provide nectar and breeding areas for the insects.
The Bird Safari opened in 2005 as a redevelopment of the old stork and ostrich house, replacing enclosures that were out of date by modern zoo-keeping standards. It is a walk-through exhibit housing various species of birds including waldrapp ibises, Abdim's storks, Fischer's turacos, hamerkops, white-faced whistling ducks and blue-bellied rollers.
The Blackburn Pavilion is a rainforest-themed tropical bird aviary that opened in March 2008, as a refurbishment of the zoo's outdated bird house. It rejuvenated the bird house by adding a walk-through element. The building was originally constructed in 1883, as a reptile house. The pavilion houses 50 different species of exotic rainforest birds, including blue-crowned laughingthrush, trogons, Socorro doves, red-crested turacos, splendid sunbirds and red-and-yellow barbets. Outside the entrance is one of the pavilion's prominent features, a large elaborate clock by Tim Hunkin. It gives a bird-themed display every thirty minutes throughout the day.
The Gibbon Habitat is a new enclosure for the zoo's two gibbons with two viewing points: one at ground level near the camel paddock, and one at a higher level from Tiger Territory. Of the pair of males, one is a Northern white-cheeked gibbon and the other is a hybrid species. They were originally housed in Gorilla Kingdom.
Meerkats and Otters
Meerkats and Otters, formerly called Happy Families, features two enclosures. One houses
Three Island Pond
Three Island Pond was only given exhibit status in 2021. This artificially shaped pond is named after the three islands that are in it. It is split into two enclosures: one houses
Other notable animals in London Zoo's collection include
The zoo's north bank, north of the canal, formerly housed the bird incubation and rearing unit. The area is currently undeveloped.
London Zoo in 2019 set up a Community Access Scheme which was to offer 100,000 subsidised tickets to charities and similar groups working with low income families, the elderly, and the disabled, intended to run until 2023.
Notable past 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 "Tasmanian tigers".
Obaysch was the first hippopotamus to be seen in Europe since the Roman Empire, and the first in England since prehistoric times. The hippo arrived at London Zoo in May 1850 as a gift from the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt in exchange for some greyhounds and deerhounds. Obaysch led to a doubling of the zoo's visitors that year.
Winnipeg the 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. A 2004 film A Bear Named Winnie is based on the story of Winnie the bear, with Michael Fassbender playing Harry Colebourn.
Mo Koundje ('Mok'), a western lowland gorilla, was purchased by the zoo in 1932. A new gorilla house was designed for him by Berthold Lubetkin. Mok died of Bright's disease in 1938. His skeleton and skin were purchased by Leeds Museums and Galleries and are on display in Leeds, UK at Leeds City Museum and Leeds Discovery Centre.
Dumbo (born 1948) was a female Indian elephant who lived at London Zoo during the 1950s and was well known for her fondness for sweets. Her parents were killed by hunters, and she was transported from India to England by air, where she spent her adult life giving rides to the children. Dumbo was named after the eponymous Disney character because she was the first elephant to travel by airplane. In 1958 she was transferred to Moscow Zoo in return for four endangered snow leopards. At some point between 1962 and 1971, Dumbo was acquired by circus performer Dolly Jacobs, but by 1978 she had been sold to Hollywood circus producer Paul V. Kaye and was living in California with three other elephants.
On 27 November 1949,
One of the zoo's most famous
On 31 January 1996 Turgi, who was the last Partula turgida, died in his habitat.
For four days in late August 2005, the zoo ran an exhibit entitled the Human zoo, which put eight humans on display in the Mappin Terraces. The idea behind the exhibit was to demonstrate the basic nature of man as an animal and examine the impact we have on the animal kingdom.
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
The earliest surviving exhibit is the Raven's Cage, an ornate ironwork aviary now retained now as a monument. The Raven's Cage was installed in 1829, soon after the zoo first opened. It's location on the grounds has changed over time, and several refurbishments have been required because of weather damage.
The Eastern Aviary, along the eastern boundary currently holding parrot and birds of prey, was built in 1863 with a hooped tubular steel frame. Refurbishment occurred in 1989 using 'invisible' wire.
The Stork and Ostrich House, built in 1896, can still be seen as holding pens behind the current Bird Safari exhibit. Victorian structures that have been demolished over time included the Lion House, Monkey House, Carnivore Terrace, and Elephant and Rhino House.
After Burton, Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell and John James Joass were appointed to design the Mappin Terraces. Completed in 1914, the Mappin Terraces imitates a mountain landscape to provide a naturalistic habitat for bears and other mountain wildlife. In 1933 the Round House, designed by Berthold Lubetkin's Tecton Architectural Group to house gorillas, was one of the first modernist style buildings to be built in Britain. The following year the Penguin Pool also designed by Tecton, was opened; both now grade I listed. The Modernist dual concrete spiral ramps of the Penguin Pool have made it famous as a piece of modern architecture, but in 2004 the African penguins were moved out of the pool permanently following 'bumblefoot' infections in the birds caused by micro-abrasions from walking on the concrete.
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. The Pavilion was commissioned "to display these massive animals in the most dramatic way" and designed to evoke a herd of elephants gathered around a watering hole.
Many of these buildings are available on a private hire basis for events, as well as a number of the animal houses. The profits from use of spaces at the zoo are re-invested directly back into the society.
In popular culture
In film and television
Many films and television programmes have made use of London Zoo as a film set.
- The Zoo and its Aquarium appear in Hitchcock's 1936 film Sabotage.
- In 1947, Carol Reed took his film crew and actors Ralph Richardson, Michèle Morgan and Bobby Henrey to London Zoo to film location scenes there for The Fallen Idol (released in 1948). Scenes were filmed inside the lion house and the reptile house and on the Mappin Terraces. Today, the scenes give an historic view of what the zoo looked like in the immediate post war years.
- A scene from the film The Pumpkin Eater (1964) with Anne Bancroft and James Mason was also set at the zoo.
- In 1967, part of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook's movie Bedazzled was filmed at the zoo.
- The opening sequence for series 3 and 4 of the 1973 ITV/Thames television show Man About The House was filmed in the London Zoological Gardens.
- During An American Werewolf in London (1981), the lead character David Kessler (played by David Naughton) woke up naked in the wolves' enclosure. Several other animals are also seen and one can clearly see the old caged enclosures of the tigers and apes.
- Part of the film Turtle Diary (1985), 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.
- In the final scene from the film Withnail and I (1987), 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.
- In the Disney remake Cruella DeVil (played by Glenn Close) kills a white tiger from the London Zoo for its fur.
- In 2000, the Burmese python scene from the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) was filmed at the zoo's Reptile House. In reality, the tank shown is typically home to smaller reptile species. A plaque beside the enclosure commemorates the event.
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- Wilfrid Blunt, The Ark in the Park: The Zoo in the Nineteenth Century (Hamish Hamilton, 1976).
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