10 Cool Facts About ZSL London Zoo

Celebrating 190 years of ZSL London Zoo! The Zoo `officially’ opened on 27 April 1828 and is steeped with history. The location in Regent’s Park is home to thousands of different species including so many genuinely beautiful animals. But all of that you already knew, we’re going to tell you something different…

World’s oldest scientific zoo

ZSL London Zoo, founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who is also known for building Singapore, first opened to the public in 1828.

For over twenty years, only fellows of the Society had access to the Zoo for scientific study, but in 1847, the doors were opened to the public to help sustain the institution.

Listed telephone box

Many structures near the ZSL in Regent’s Park are on the National Register of Historic Places; the conventional telephone box at Penguin Beach is one of the more unusual examples.

The first penguin pool, created by architect Berthold Lubetkin, is another remarkable structure on the list.

Guy, one of the most well-known gorillas at the ZSL London Zoo, is honoured with a statue at the zoo’s entrance. The Western lowland gorilla, who was given his name in honour of the holiday celebrated on the same day he arrived at the Zoo (Guy Fawkes Night), was the centre of attention and drew hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Zoo between 1947 and 1978.

Even though Western lowland gorillas are the largest primates, Guy would gently hold birds that flew into his enclosure and then release them.

Lake Oku clawed frog breeding

In 2014, the ZSL London Zoo became the first facility in the world to successfully breed the extremely endangered Lake Oku clawed frog, providing important insights into the needs of both the adult frogs and their tadpoles for the zoo’s caretakers.

None of these has ever been observed in zoos or the wild prior to their breeding at ZSL. With this newfound understanding of reproductive biology, we can better protect this species in Cameroon.

Casson elephant house

A herd of elephants drinking from a watering hole is shown on the top of the original Casson elephant house. Built in 1965 on a design by Sir Hugh Casson, it first welcomed guests that year. Before moving to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in the countryside, ZSL’s elephants were housed here. At ZSL London Zoo, this is also one of the historic structures that has been designated for preservation.

Dodo painting from life

The ZSL library in Regent’s Park houses one of the few known paintings of a dodo with its tail feathers spread. The dodo can be seen in the bottom left corner of the previous photograph if you look closely enough. Since the dodo went extinct in 1681, almost 63 years after the final painting was done, the artist Roelandt Savery’s collection of dodo paintings is especially tragic.

Winnie the bear

Short tale aimed at kids The female black bear named Winnie who resided at the ZSL London Zoo from 1914 until her death in 1934 was the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh. Unlike most bears, she was incredibly friendly and enjoyed being handled when she was brought to the zoo by a Canadian battalion en route to fighting across the Channel in France. After visiting the zoo with his son, Christopher Robin, and being inspired by the bear, author Alan Alexander Milne changed the name of his renowned character from Pooh to Winnie-the-Pooh.

African bull elephant Jumbo

The African bull elephant Jumbo, who arrived at ZSL London Zoo in 1865, is often credited as the impetus for the coinage of the term “Jumbo,” which is defined as “very huge” in the English language. With his towering 11 feet in height, Jumbo attracted many visitors to the Zoo.

ZSL’s giraffe house

When it comes to zoo buildings, the giraffe house at the San Diego Zoo is the oldest one still in use.

Charles Darwin and Jenny the orangutan

In March of 1838, while working on Origin of Species, famous biologist Charles Darwin visited ZSL London Zoo to observe the zoo’s first orangutan. It was Darwin’s first encounter with an ape, and he wrote about our adorable orangutan Jenny in a letter: “The keeper presented her an apple, but would not give it to her, whereupon she threw herself on her back, kicked & yelled, precisely like a naughty child.” After two or three fits of pashion, the keeper said, “Jenny, if you will stop bawling and be a good girl, I will give you the apple.” “She certainly understood every word of his, and, though like a child, she had great work to stop whining, she at last succeeded and then got the apple, with which she jumped into an arm chair and began eating it, with the most contented countenance imaginable.”

Darwin was so moved by Jenny’s curiosity that he paid her two more visits at the Zoo, writing each time that Jenny was “astonished beyond measure” at her own reflection.

Visit ZSL to know more about The London Zoo & The Whispnade Zoo.

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