ZSL Whipsnade Zoo across the decades
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo from the War years to present.
The War Years
When World War II started, many staff left to go into war service. The part of the Zoo that is now the Passage through Asia was turned over to growing wheat, potatoes and kale, to help the war effort and to help feed the animals. During the war, the Zoo acted as a refuge for animals evacuated from London Zoo in Regent’s Park, to avoid the risk of enemy bombing. The Giant Pandas, Ming, Sung and Tang, were among these animals but were soon returned to London Zoo to boost the morale of the capital.
Whipsnade held its 21st Anniversary celebrations between 19th & 23rd May 1952. In 1957, Whipsnade received 6 kangaroos, 2 black swans and 2 Tasmanian devils from the Australian government. 1957 also saw the birth of the first Asian rhino at Whipsnade, only thethird ever to be born in captivity.
This decade saw growing acceptance amongst conservationists that captive breeding of animals had a serious role to play in species conservation, and Whipsnade, already with 30 years of experience, was one of those leading the way.
Cheetahs continued to do well. In 1972, Janica, a cheetah born in the Zoo in 1968, had a cub of her own, a male called Adam. The first white rhino calf to be born and bred in Europe was born at Whipsnade in 1973.
Decimalisation and rising prices affected Whipsnade during this decade of inflation. A £50,000 annual food bill went up to £61,000 in the first 11 months of 1974. With decimalisation, entrance to the zoo cost 45p for adults and 25p for children!
During the 1980s the global zoo community continued to develop its commitments to conservation through captive breeding. Highlights for Whipsnade being the continued success of rhino breeding; black rhino, white rhino and Asian rhinos. Also, Pére David deer. During this decade, Whipsnade, working with several other zoos, sent 40 of these unusual deer back to China to establish a wild herd where they had been extinct since 1900.
By the 1990s Whipsnade Zoo was Involved in a large number of breeding programmes and the Zoo continued to upgrade and improve its facilities. The Elephant house, Lemur Island, Bird Garden, Hippo house and Conservation Room in the Discovery Centre were all developed in the 1990s.
2000 and beyond
The start of the new millennium saw ZSL continue its commitment to its mission; to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.
New exhibits for African lions, Asian rhinos, cheetah and wolverine have been completed and breeding programmes for these and many other species within the Zoo continue to be successful.