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. In 1831 or 1832 the animals of the Tower of London menagerie were transferred to the zoo's collection. It was eventually opened to the public in 1847. Today it houses a collection of 698 species of animals, with 20,166 individuals, making it one of the largest collections in the United Kingdom. The zoo is sometimes called Regent's Zoo. 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 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), first insect house (1881) and the first children's zoo (1938).
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was established by Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphry Davy in 1826, who obtained the land for the zoo and saw the plans before Raffles died of apoplexy (what would now be called a stroke) later that year on 5 July – his birthday. After his death the third Marquis of Lansdowne took over the project and supervised the building of the first animal houses. The zoo opened in April 1828 to fellows of the Society, providing access to species such as Arabian oryx, greater kudus, orangutan and the now extinct quagga and thylacine. The Society was granted a Royal Charter in 1829 by King George IV, and in 1847 the zoo opened to the public to aid funding. 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. 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 opened, becoming the world's first open zoological park. The first woman to be a curator at the London Zoo was Evelyn Cheesman, in 1920. In 1962, 'Caroline', an Arabian oryx, was lent to Phoenix Zoo, Arizona in the world's first international co-operative breeding programme. Today the zoo participates in breeding programmes for over 130 species. At the beginning of the 1990s, the zoo had almost 7,000 animals; the nearest any other collection came to it 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.
Land of the Lions: Land of the Lions is a new enclosure for ZSL London Zoo's Asiatic lions, which opened in Spring 2016 by HM Queen Elizabeth II. The enclosure is 2,500 square metres (27,000 square feet) in size, and designed to resemble the Gir Forest National Park in India. The exhibit is also home to a troop of Hanuman langurs also a band of dwarf mongoose and shows how the lions' natural habitat overlaps with the local urban environments. Tiger Territory: Tiger Territory is ZSL London Zoo's Sumatran tiger enclosure, designed by architect Michael Kozdon and officially opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh in March 2013. The zoo currently owns five tigers: a male named Jae Jae and a female named Melati and their three cubs born in February 2014 (two males named Budi and Nakal, and a female named Cinta). 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. Gorilla Kingdom: Opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh in March 2007, Gorilla Kingdom is home to a group of six western lowland gorillas, and consists of a moated island with an indoor gym for the gorillas to use. London Zoo currently owns six gorillas: a silver-back male named Kumbuka, three adult females named Zaire, Mjuuku and Effie, an infant female named Alika (the daughter of Mjuuku and Kumbuka), born in December 2014 and infant male born November 2015. The Gorilla Kingdom area also features smaller enclosures housing Diana monkeys, black and white colobus, sooty mangabeys, Celebes crested macaque and Congo peafowl. Into Africa: Into Africa is an Africa-themed area that was opened in April 2006. Animals on display in this area include Chapman's zebras, warthogs, okapi, Rothschild's giraffes, pygmy hippopotamus and African wild dogs. The giraffe enclosure features a high level viewing platform to give the public face-to-face contact with the giraffes and it is the oldest zoo building in the world still used for its original purpose. Rainforest Life and Night Life: Rainforest Life is a walk-through indoor exhibit that houses several different species of rainforest animals. Among the species in the main forest walk-through are two-toed sloths, golden-headed lion tamarins, a female tamandua named Tammy, red titi monkeys, armadillos, Geoffrey's marmosets, cotton-top tamarins, Goeldi's marmosets and sunbitterns. The building also has a darkened area called "Nightlife", which houses nocturnal animals such as Seba's short-tailed bats, slender lorises, pottos, Australian water rats, Malagasy giant rats and blind cave fish. The Mappin Terraces / Outback: The Outback is an Australia-themed exhibit housing groups of emus, Bennett's wallabies and red kangaroos. The enclosure, which was originally called "The Mappin Terraces", was originally opened in 1913 and features an artificial rocky cliff made of concrete blocks for animal enrichment. It was originally designed for a multitude of different species including bears, penguins, sheep, goats and wild boar.
The Aquarium: There has been an aquarium at the zoo since 1853, the zoo's first aquarium was also the world's first public aquarium. The word "aquarium" was coined by Philip Henry Gosse who had also created and stocked the first public aquarium at London Zoo. The current aquarium was built in 1921 next to the Mappin Terraces, and was officially opened by King George V and his wife Queen Mary in April 1924. The aquarium is separated into three halls, each home to different types of fish and other aquatic wildlife. The first hall primarily contains freshwater species such as rudd and European eels, as well as some saltwater species involved in various conservation projects and captive-breeding programmes, such as broad sea fans, uarus and seahorses. The second hall displays various species of coral reef fish from around the world, such as clownfish, copperband butterflyfish and regal tangs, as well as real coral. The third hall houses species native to the Amazon River, including red-bellied piranhas, angelfish, arapaimas and ocellate river stingrays. As well as the three halls, the aquarium also features the "Big Fish Tank", which contains large fish species that are all former pets, and had to be rescued because their owners did not have the proper equipment or understanding to look after them. The species in the Big Fish Tank include tambaqui, catfish and pirapitinga. Animal Adventure: 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. Many of the animals in Animal Adventure are domestic animals, such as sheep, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, goats and ferrets, as well as rare breeds such as silkie chickens, rex rabbits and kunekune pigs. Exotic species on display include yellow mongooses, crested porcupines, aardvarks, prairie dogs, ring-tailed coatis and one of the zoo's two groups of meerkats (the other group live in an enclosure next to the Rainforest Life building). The meerkat enclosure features a tunnel that children can crawl through until they reach a see-through dome that allows them to see directly into the enclosure. The Reptile House: One of London Zoo's most well-known buildings, the Reptile House opened in 1927 and was designed by Joan Beauchamp Procter and Sir Edward Guy Dawber. It houses several species of reptile, including Jamaican boa, Philippine crocodiles, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, black mambas, rhinoceros iguanas, king cobras, emerald tree boas and Yemen chameleons. In December 2012, a refurbished amphibian section was opened to the public, displaying amphibians such as African bullfrogs, axolotls, caecillians and various types of poison dart frog. Giants of the Galápagos: Giants of the Galápagos was opened in 2009 to coincide with the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and is home to five Galápagos giant tortoises: a male named Dirk and four females named Dolly, Dolores, Polly and Priscilla. The exhibit features a large indoor area, with a heated pond and underfloor heating, while the outdoor paddock has been designed to mimic the tortoise's natural environment and features two heated pools, one of which is a naturalistic clay wallow. The Attenborough Komodo Dragon House: London Zoo's Komodo dragon enclosure was opened by Sir David Attenborough in July 2004. The zoo used to own two Komodo dragons, a female named Rinka and a male named Raja. A new male dragon called Ganas(One of the Parthenogenic hatchlings from Chester zoo) moved to London in 2015 after the previous dragons died. Their enclosure is designed to resemble the dragon's natural habitat of a dry river bed, and sounds of Indonesian birds are regularly played into the enclosure. B.U.G.S: B.U.G.S (which stands for Biodiversity Underpinning Global Survival and formerly called Web of Life) is held in a building called The Millennium Conservation Centre, and aims to educate the public about biodiversity. The building displays over 140 species, the majority of which are invertebrates. They include leafcutter ants, jewel wasps, golden mantella frogs, brown rats, bird-eating spiders, naked mole rats, leaf insects, moon jellyfish, Giant African land snails, cave crickets, fruit beetles and black widow spiders. The Millennium Conservation Centre aims to be environmentally friendly, constructed from materials requiring little energy to produce, and generating its heating from the body heat of both the animals and visitors. In May 2015 an exhibit called In With The Spiders opened in B.U.G.S as Europe's first and only spider walkthrough exhibit. It houses many different types of spiders including one of the UK's most endangered animals, the fen raft spider. Penguin Beach: Penguin Beach opened in 2011 and houses seventy Humboldt penguins, as well as a single male rockhopper penguin named Ricky. The pool itself is currently the largest penguin pool in an English zoo. In with the Lemurs: Opened in March 2015, In with the Lemurs is a walk-through exhibit housing a troop of ten ring-tailed lemurs. It also has a family of aye-ayes living in the indoor section as well as panther chameleons, lesser hedgehog tenrecs and malagasy giant rats. The exhibit is designed to resemble a shrub forest in Madagascar, featuring plant life such as loquat and Chusan palm trees. 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 20 black-capped squirrel monkeys. The exhibit has no roof, and there are no boundaries between the monkeys and the visitors. Butterfly Paradise: 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. Species on display include the clipper butterfly, blue morpho butterfly, atlas moth, zebra longwing, glasswing butterfly and postman butterfly. The exhibit also features a caterpillar hatchery and a pupa display cabinet, where visitors can witness different types of pupae and the development of new butterflies. African Bird Safari: The African Bird Safari opened in 2005 as a redevelopment of the old stork and ostrich house, replacing three enclosures that were out of date by modern zoo-keeping standards. It is a walk-through exhibit housing various species of African birds including superb starlings, Von der Decken's hornbills, Bernier's teals, Abdim's storks, blue-bellied rollers and lilac-breasted rollers. Snowdon Aviary: The Snowdon Aviary was designed by Cedric Price, Frank Newby and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, and was built in 1964. A variety of birds have been kept in the aviary since it was opened, and it currently houses green peafowl, sacred ibis, little egrets, cattle egrets, northern bald ibis and grey-headed gulls. Blackburn Pavilion: The Blackburn Pavilion is a rainforest-themed tropical bird aviary that opened in March 2008, as a refurishment of the zoo's out-of-date bird house. The building was originally constructed in 1883, as a reptile house. The pavilion houses fifty different species of exotic birds, including Socorro doves, Mindanao bleeding-hearts, scarlet ibis, toco toucans, splendid sunbirds, pied avocets and blue-winged kookaburras. 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. Others: Other notable animals in London Zoo's collection include black vultures, greater flamingos, vicunas, Bactrian camels, spectacled owls, red-ruffed lemurs, African harrier hawks, Malayan tapirs, burrowing owls, white-cheeked gibbons, military macaws, Oriental small-clawed otters, reindeer, giant anteaters, Rüppell's vultures, Bornean bearded pigs, Rodrigues fruit bats and great white pelicans.
Throughout its history the zoo has had many well-known residents. These may have been scientifically important individuals or simply beloved by the public. Old Martin was a large grizzly bear, the first in England, moved to the zoo with many other animals from the Royal Menagerie, Tower of London when it was closed in 1832. 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. 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 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 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. 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. In 1982 Guy was commemorated by a bronze statue in Barclay Court, sculpted by William Timym. 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. She was rescued from hunters as a baby, and 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 Paul Kaye and was living in California with three other elephants. On 27 November 1949 Brumas became the first polar bear to be successfully bred at the zoo, and immediately became a major attraction with the public. This led to the zoo's annual attendance to rise to over 3 million in 1950 - a figure that has yet to be topped. Although a female, the press reported that she was a 'he' and this was not corrected at the time, leading the public to believe the bear was a male. Eighteen years later, on 1 December 1967 the second polar bear bred at the zoo, this time a male, was born. He was named Pipaluk (Inuit for little one) but, in 1985, had to leave the zoo when the Mappin Terraces closed.
One of the zoo's most famous giant pandas, Chi Chi, arrived in 1958. Although originally destined for an American zoo, Washington had ceased all trade with communist China and so Chi Chi was refused entry to the United States. In the interests of conservation, ZSL had stated they would not encourage the collection of wild pandas. However, when it was pointed out that Chi Chi had already been collected, her purchase was approved, and she immediately become the star attraction at London Zoo. As the only giant panda in the west she was the inspiration of Peter Scott's design for the World Wildlife Fund logo. In July 1972, Chi Chi died and was publicly mourned. The zoo's last giant panda was Ming Ming. She arrived in 1991 on a breeding loan from China. After unsuccessful breeding attempts with Berlin's Zoo giant panda Bao Bao it had been decided to return Ming Ming to China, leaving the London Zoo without a giant panda since the end of October 1994. Zoo staff later suggested that Chinese zookeepers knew that she was infertile and lent her in order to hide how much more advanced Western husbandry techniques were compared to theirs. 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.
There are six disabled parking bays near the Zoo entrance. Five are in the small car park opposite the entrance and one bay is immediately in front of the entrance. Otherwise there is pay and display parking on the Outer Circle and in the Zoo car park – about 500 yards along the same road.
The Zoo is more than 170 years old and contains many old buildings, 12 of which are listed. However, most of the Zoo is accessible for wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties. Land of the Lions is wheelchair friendly and has a lift available for visitors to use. Tiger Territory is wheelchair friendly and has a lift available for visitors to access the higher viewing platform. The Aquarium has disabled access via an entrance to the left of the main doorway. The historic Lubetkin penguin pool (listed Grade 1) has limited viewing for wheelchair users and very small children. The paths are generally tarmac and there is level or ramped access to most buildings. The slopes leading to the two tunnels in the Zoo are rather steep.
We have a limited number of wheelchairs available for hire. They recommend booking these in advance by ringing Supporter Services on 0344 225 1826. A deposit of £25 will be required, which will be refunded when the wheelchair is returned undamaged.
Toilets for disabled visitors: Opposite B.U.G.S Next to the Aquarium Next to Animal Adventure cafe Near main entrance next to vulture aviary The Terrace Restaurant A changing hoist/disabled facility is located at the First Aid point
Assistance dogs are not currently permitted inside ZSL London Zoo because some of their animals react negatively to their presence. They are working with Guide Dogs UK to resolve this and hope to be able to welcome dogs to certain areas of the zoo in the future. In the meantime, please contact their support centre in advance of your visit to make alternative arrangements on 0344 225 1826.
Location : ZSL London Zoo, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY
Transport: Camden Town (Northern Line). London Buses routes 274 then 2 minutes OR C2 then 6 minutes.
Opening Times: April through August 10:00 to 18:00
Opening Times: September, October 10:00 to 17:30
Opening Times: November through March 10:00 to 16:00
Online Tickets : Adults £24.30; Children (3 - 15) £18.00; Concessions £21.90; Fast Track + £5.00
Tel: 020 7449 6200