by Ann Sylph on

This blog features our first 'penguins' arriving in the nineteenth century and a few from the twentieth century.

The first live penguin at ZSL London Zoo, or indeed the first at a UK zoo, was a King Penguin from the Falkland Islands. The penguin arrived in 1865. According to the Annual Report for that year it was "skilfully conveyed to this country by Commander Fenwick, of H.M.S. 'Harrier'...this strange looking bird attracted universal attention". In the V&A's collections there is a wonderful cartoon by Ernest Griset of the penguin surrounded by artists trying to depict this unusual creature. The cartoon is reproduced in Lionel Lambourne's book Ernest Griset : fantasies of a Victorian illustrator. In our Archives the 'Daily Occurrences' for 1865, states that this first King Penguin arrived on 27 March 1865. The penguin lived a very short time, dying on 19 May 1865 [1].

The next King Penguin was presented by Mr F.P. Cobb, Manager of the Falkland Islands Company, Port Stanley. It was brought by Mr W.H. Hyde, R.N. on H.M.S. 'Reindeer', arriving on 8 January 1872. It was a young penguin with immature  brown plumage, sadly it died a few weeks later [2]. The first King Penguins to hatch at ZSL London Zoo was in August 1952, when three hatched [3].

Two penguins in a drawing John Gould, 1848

Other species of penguin arriving at ZSL London Zoo in the nineteenth century were Rockhopper penguin in 1873 and then Gentoo penguin in 1874. These were followed by Jackass in 1882, Blue in 1887 and Yellow-crested in 1891.

The 1950 Annual Report lists two Emperor penguins as new species in the animal collection at ZSL London Zoo, they were presented by the Falkland Islands Dependency Survey, Graham Land, at the same time they presented  five Gentoos, seven Ringed and two Maccaroni penguins. Although we often receive enquiries about earlier Emperor penguins, these seem to be King penguins which have been misidentified by visitors.

One of the oldest books in ZSL Library is Belon's L'histoire nature des oyseaux, 1555. It does not include an image of a penguin but our copy has a later image of penguin from 1769 stuck into the book! This depicts a King penguin engraved for Thomas Pennant's description in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.


Ernest Griset : fantasies of a Victorian illustrator / Lionel Lambourne, London : Thames & Hudson, 1979

 L'histoire nature des oyseaux... / Pierre Belon, Paris : Cavellat, 1555. 

Penguin / Stephen Martin, London : Reaktion Books, 2009.

Report of the Council of the Zoological Society of London, 1866, p. 20 ZSL Archives

Report of the Council of the Zoological Society of London, 1950, p. 11 & 13  ZSL Archives

[1] Proceedings of the Zoological Society, 1865, Vol. 33, issue 1, p. 318 and 'Daily Occurrences' 1865 in ZSL Archives.

[2] Proceedings of the Zoological Society 1872, Vol. 40, issue 1, pp. 183-4 and 880.

[3] Report of the Council of the Zoological Society of London, 1952, p.  17 ZSL Archives


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 Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment only, please email in advance 

You can explore and discover our collections in a variety of ways –


Fairy penguin by John Gould 1848
Fairy penguin by John Gould 1848

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