London Zoo – One of the Oldest Zoos in Existence:
London has such a long history, filled with great churches, monuments, art and history museums that very often seeking nature here often isn’t what immediately comes to mind. But that’s an error, since London is home to one of the oldest zoos in existence.
The ZSL London Zoo (Zoological Society of London) was first established in 1828 to house animals for scientific study and conservation. Nearly twenty years passed before the zoo was opened to the public. At the time, Britain could boast the foremost naturalists in the world. Probably no single country could claim the number one spot today. Science, like business, has gone global.
When the zoo opened it was, of course, a smashing success. Most Londoners of the day – bereft of photographs, not to mention television and the Internet – had never seen such exotic animals as a pygmy hippopotamus or a lowland gorilla or even a simple penguin.
Today’s visitors are more fortunate. Along with the interesting Victorian architecture there are hundreds of zoo animals and other species to see. Everything from snouted cobras to Komodo dragons to Partula snails are still on display. The Reptile House was opened in 1849, the Insect House in 1881. More ‘modern’ facilities have been added over the years, such as the Round House (1933) to hold gorillas and the Penguin Pool (1934). The penguins have been moved to a new facility since.
But far from being stuck in the past, the London Zoo has made efforts to alter the habitats to conform to the latest conservation efforts. Though old by some standards, the Snowdon Aviary (1964) is still one of the most popular attractions.
Visitors here can walk through and observe dozens of exotic bird species. A winding path and bridge over a stream provides a tranquil setting to observe African Waterfowl. Hornbills make there presence known as visitors encroach on their territory.
The Mappin Terraces remain a favorite. An artificial mountain built to house bears, it has an aquarium underneath. And the ‘Meet the Monkeys’ continues to attract kids and adults alike. The squirrel monkeys took up residence in 2005 and proved to be very popular. The facility carefully recreates their natural Bolivian rainforest habitat.
Innovative programs continue today. The Zoo recently began a selective program that allows residents to ‘adopt’ zoo animals. For a fee, they can care for penguins and others under the guidance of a trained staff member. Many of the larger species have been moved to Whipsnade Zoo, 600 acres about 59 km (35 miles) outside London.
ZSL London Zoo is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. (Opening times are: 10:00 – 18:00 in summer and 10:00 – 16:00 in winter months.)
The Zoo is located in the north east corner of London’s Regent’s Park and is about a 10 minute walk from Camden Station in Regents Park. London Zoo is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions so to skip the line consider booking your London Zoo tickets online.
Alternatively, one of the most beautiful and relaxing ways to get to the Zoo is on a Regents Canal boat cruise. London Waterbus offers Zoo tickets as part of the canal boat cruise.