Landmarks in ZSL History

Since Sir Stamford Raffles founded ZSL in 1826, there have been many achievements at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as well as in our conservation work in the wild.


The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is founded by Stamford Raffles.


  • London Zoo opens to Fellows of the Society, and to the public with a written 'order' from a Fellow and payment of 1 shilling.
  • Lady Raffles appointed as first woman Fellow.


The Zoological Society of London is granted a Royal Charter by King George IV.  


Scientific Meetings started. First issue of the Proceedings of the Zoological Society published.


Royal animal collection from the Tower of London presented to ZSL.


Chimpanzee exhibited at London Zoo for the first time.


Charles Darwin becomes a Fellow of ZSL.


Public admitted to London Zoo without an 'order' from a Fellow.


World's first Reptile House opened at London Zoo.


Arrival of the hippopotamus Obaysch - the first living hippo to be seen in Europe.


First ever public Aquarium opened at London Zoo.


Jumbo, the first African elephant seen alive in England, received from Paris.


World's first Insect House opened at London Zoo.


Winnie the bear deposited at London Zoo. She was the inspiration for 'Winnie-the-pooh'.


Evelyn Cheesman appointed Assistant Curator of Insects, the first woman in a curatorial post.


As the twentieth century dawned the need to keep and study large animals in more natural surroundings became apparent. Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell (ZSL Secretary 1903-35) envisaged a new park no more than 70 miles from London, over 200 acres in size and easily accessible to the visiting public. In 1926 an ideal site was found, derelict Hall Farm, near Whipsnade village, nearly 600 acres on the Chiltern Downs. ZSL purchased the farm in December 1926 for £13,480 12s 10d.


The first animals arrived at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park - two Amherst pheasants, a golden pheasant and five red jungle fowl. Others soon followed including muntjac, llama, wombats and skunks.


Whipsnade Wild Animal Park opens - the world's first open zoological park.


Children's Zoo opened at London Zoo.


Start of Second World War. The Giant pandas, elephants and rhinos were sent to Whipsnade. London Zoo closed briefly from 3-9 September, but remained open throughout the rest of the War.


Guy the gorilla arrives at London Zoo.

1960 and 1961

The Institute of Zoology is established. Lord Zuckerman, then Secretary of ZSL, raised funds from two medical foundations to found laboratories where scientists would be employed by ZSL and undertake research.


'Caroline' an Arabian oryx is lent to the world herd in Phoenix, Arizona, the first international co-operative breeding programme.


Whipsnade breed the first cheetahs born in Europe.


ZSL co-ordinates the release of Pere David's deer in Da Feng, China. The release includes deer bred at Whipsnade.


The release of 100 sand gazelles into the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia - the world's largest release of captive-bred mammals.


His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh opens Whipsnade's new Elephant House.


The release of 4,000 rare British field crickets into southern England.


Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, officially opened the Millennium Conservation Centre, which houses BUGS, the biodiversity exhibition.
ZSL launches its first website.


ZSL celebrated 175 year and Whipsnade Zoo celebrated 80 year anniversaries.


  • Komodo Island of Dragons enclosure opened by Sir David Attenborough.
  • Meet the Monkeys walkthrough exhibit for the squirrel monkeys opened.
  • African Bird Safari walkthrough opened.


ZSL assists in rescuing approximately 950 exotic fish and coral illegally imported from Indonesia seized at Heathrow.


  • Gorilla Kingdom opens at ZSL London Zoo.
  • EDGE of Existence programme launched   concentrating on world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species.


  • Blackburn Pavilion opened in March, ZSL London Zoo
  • Outback exhibit opened August, ZSL London Zoo
  • Opening of Rhinos of Nepal, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo


  • Animal Adventure opens with red pandas, aardvarks, and prairie dogs on display.
  • Giants of the Galapagos opens.


  • Once thought of extinct Horton Plains slender loris discovered in Sri Lanka by ZSL, with first ever photos.
  • Three part ITV documentary ‘The Zoo,’aired on prime time television.


Penguin Beach opens at ZSL London Zoo - England's biggest penguin pool.


Opening of Tiger Territory, a 2,500sqm (27,000sqft) enclosure for tigers that replicates their natural Indonesian habitat. 


Thug and Nicky, two pygmy hippos, move into a new custom built enclosure. Complete with solar panels to power their own indoor heated pools. 



ZSL London Zoo houses a wonderful range of reptiles, fish, invertebrates, birds and mammals. Of the more than 650 species at ZSL London Zoo, 112 are listed as threatened in the Red Data Books . ZSL London Zoo participates in breeding programmes for 130 species.