Engaging with sculptures at ZSL Library & Archives

by Ann Sylph on

Arts and sciences are both vital to human culture and they help people to reconnect with nature and take action to protect it. Sculptures can be found in ZSL Library & Archives and across the site of ZSL London Zoo, they engage, inspire and delight visitors, they highlight the variety of the animal kingdom from dung beetles to giant pandas.

Sculptures at ZSL are an important part of our heritage, together with our many historic buildings. Find out more about architecture at ZSL London Zoo together with a flavour of ZSL’s rich history. Discover more about sculptures at ZSL London Zoo, some feature famous animals whilst others are memorials to people involved with ZSL.

One of the first sculptures  you encounter as you enter ZSL Library & Archives is a small hippopotamus. Obaysch was a very famous former inhabitant of ZSL London Zoo, his arrival causing a sensation and created a new word -‘hippomania’! The small sculpture of this famous hippotamus was constructed from Nile mud by Joseph Gawen in around 1855, more in one of our previous blogs.

Obaysch the first hippopotamus, a sculpture made from Nile mud, Joseph Gawen, circa 1855
Obaysch sculpture made from Nile mud, Joseph Gawen, circa 1855

Guy the gorilla was another iconic animal, the bronze sculpture of him near the entrance to ZSL London Zoo is one of the favourite sculptures in London. This bronze, from 1982, is by William Timym, 1902-1990. A painting of Guy by William Timym hangs in ZSL Library & Archives but there also several other smaller bronzes by Timym on display such as this of  Arabian oryx, these animals were the  focus of a successful conservation breeding and reintroduction programme. More recently ZSL has been involved in reintroduction of scimitar horned oryx. Looking at the bronze side - on you can begin to understand the legend of unicorns.

Side view of a bronze sculpture depicting two Arabian oryx
Arabian oryx by William Timym

This lovely bronze by William Timym depicts the black rhino Gertie, a former inhabitant of Amboseli National Park in Kenya.

Side view of bronze sculpture of a rhinoceros with a long horn
Black rhino bronze by William Timym

Not all the bronzes in ZSL Library & Archives are by William Timym! For example, this elephant bull is by Nicola Toms, 1997.

Bronze of a running elephant
Elephant bull, Nicola Toms

This beautiful marble sculpture of a cheetah’s head is by Ernest Dielman, 1988.

Brown marble sculpture of a cheetah's head
Cheetah head, Ernest Dielman

One of our intriguing sculptures is the iron eagle which was previously located for 75 years on the bird of prey aviary in ZSL London Zoo. In our archives, it is mentioned in the 1910 minutes of Council. There is a widely held belief that the Kaiser Wilhelm II played some part in the acquisition of this eagle, if you do know more please get in touch.

Iron sculpture of an eagle, perched with wings outstretched
Iron eagle

These are just a few of the sculptures which can be seen in ZSL Library & Archives. Please note  - we are reopening by appointment by on Tuesday and Wednesdays only. Please contact us if you would like to make an appointment  library@zsl.org 

On you way in or as you leave ZSL Library & Archives do take a look at the bust of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in the entrance lobby, ZSL’s Founder and first President.

Further details of these sculptures and their sculptors can be found in the online catalogue of ZSL Library & Archives To search for these and other art works click ‘Search Artworks’ on the left-hand sidebar and enter some details in the search box to discover more. The catalogue also includes details of other sculptures at ZSL London Zoo as well as other works of art in ZSL’s collections.

My thanks to Ann Datta, ZSL Volunteer Art Cataloguer and James Godwin (Photography)



ZSL Prince Philip Zoological Library & Archives is a wonderful and unique information resource about animals and their conservation – we aim to inspire, inform, and empower people to stop wild animals going extinct. Information is vitally important in conservation.


ZSL Prince Philip Zoological Library & Archives is currently open on Tuedays and Wednesdays by appointment only, please email in advance library@zsl.org   You can explore and discover our collections in a variety of ways –


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