London NW1 4RY
Tel: 020 7722 3333
About ZSL London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific, as opposed to private, zoological collection and one of the top wildlife family attractions anywhere in the world. Approaching its bicentenary, ZSL London Zoo’s primary functions remain global animal conservation and preservation, as well as providing ticket holders with a thrilling and memorable family day out. Indeed, ZSL London Zoo offers visitors the chance to meet some of the planet’s most fascinating creatures up close and personal. With 650+ species of animal and thousands of individuals on show, ZSL London Zoo’s comprehensive array of rare species, presented in a natural environment, makes it a unique family day.
Established as early as 1828, ZSL London Zoo originally operated as a captive menagerie for the scientific study of naturalists, and it threw open its gates to the British public in 1847 – just one of a series of family attractions springing up around the UK at the time, and diverting the attention of the masses during a period of pan-European political and social unrest. ZSL London Zoo served to focus popular interest on the wonderful species retained within its walls, and the Zoological Society of London built on its success to eventually expand with the development of its sister institute, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.
ZSL London Zoo’s reputation soon permeated beyond its boundaries in the north of London’s Regents Park, off Baker Street. And given the fact that the Regents Canal flowed across the site, it was both easily accessible and provided a spacious and natural habitat in which a growing animal population could thrive in the city. In time, a number of larger specimens, including elephants and rhinos, were relocated to the 600-acre Whipsnade site, but ZSL London Zoo continued to breed a variety of mammals and contribute to their dispersal to other centres across the country.
A family day out at ZSL London Zoo is a full one, as ticket holders have access to the world’s first reptile house and first insect house, not to mention the first ever public aquarium and the first children’s zoo. Additionally, the family attraction has an ongoing programme of refitting the animal enclosures to make them ever more like their wild homes, and ticket holders can marvel at walk-through facilities in the monkey and African bird sections.
Other highlights of an informative and enchanting family day out to ZSL London Zoo are the Into Africa and Butterfly Paradise features, as well as the more recently opened ventures, the Gorilla Kingdom, inhabited by the king of the apes, and the Rainforest Lookout, with its rich canopy of exotic flora and fauna.
Other standout features at ZSL London Zoo include the grand Clock Tower, built in 1828 to house the llamas, and the Giraffe House, which is another example of stunning Regency period architecture. Both are Grade II listed buildings designed by Decimus Burton, while the Round House – built in 1932 as a home for the gorillas – was designed by Tecton; all uniquely splendid features for a zoological garden.
As for the residents, there are all manner of cute and cuddly critters, from sloth bears and langurs in the Mappin Terraces, to the ever playful and entertaining penguins in the Penguin Pool. Feeding time is a must on a family day out to ZSL London Zoo. Other enclosures that will captivate ticket holders on a family day out include the Snowdon aviary, and the Elephant and Rhinoceros House, featuring camels and bearded pigs as tenants.
ZSL London Zoo additionally boasts some outstanding specimens of rare and endangered species from across the globe, and in the past it boasted the only quagga (a type of zebra) ever known to have been in captivity. ZSL London Zoo also had several thylacine, a tiger-like marsupial, which sadly became extinct as well. But the pioneering spirit of ZSL London Zoo ensured that it has contributed over the decades to many conservation success stories, as well as breaking new ground with the first hippopotamus in Europe since the Roman era, and a gigantic late 19th century elephant that broke all records for its stature, aptly titled Jumbo. Additionally, Winnie the black bear was seen by writer A.A. Milne and inspired his Winnie The Pooh stories. More recently, Guy the Gorilla lived at London Zoo from 1947 until his death in 1978.
The oldest resident of ZSL London Zoo for many years was in fact a Great Indian hornbill, Josephine, which lived in the Bird House until 1998, when she met the choir invisible in her 50s. Another popular exhibit was a polar bear, Brumas, who became a celebrity in the 1950s and fueled annual attendance figures of over three million, which remains a record to this day.
Another noteworthy fixture at the family attraction was a snowy owl that fell onto the deck of HMS Eros during a storm off the Azores. Evidently it did him no harm as he sired 57 chicks during his stay at ZSL London Zoo, which lasted until 1993.
Equally popular with the public was the giant panda, Chi Chi, who was one of the first pandas to arrive in a European zoo, in 1958. The golden eagle, Goldie, stole some limelight in 1965 by fleeing his enclosure for a fortnight and circling Regents Park. But arguably the most startling exhibit to be displayed at the family attraction were examples of homo sapiens sapiens dressed in fig leaves in 2005! ZSL London Zoo certainly grabs the attention of ticket holders on a family day out, and you never know what you might see around the next corner!
ZSL London Zoo has been the backdrop for many TV programmes and films over the years, including Absolutely Fabulous and the famous scene in An American Werewolf In London when the lead character wakes up naked in the wolf enclosure and escapes by snatching a bunch of balloons from a visitor! Other memorable moments include Hugh Grant and his surrogate son stunning a duck with a loaf of stale bread in the comedy About A Boy, while a Burmese python was filmed in the reptile house for Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. With disabled access throughout, ZSL London Zoo is a wizard of a family day that everyone can enjoy. Just the ticket!