London’s Zoo – 200 years strong

by ZSL on

Kathryn England, Chief Operating Officer for ZSL London Zoo, talks about running one of the world’s most famous zoos, and what’s in store for the iconic venue in 2022.

Kathryn England, Chief Operating Officer for ZSL London Zoo, smiles as she stands near the penguin pool at London Zoo

We describe ourselves as London’s Zoo, because we’re part of the very fabric that makes up this wonderful city. Our history is deeply entwined with the history of the Capital that we know today – from our memorable architecture to our Royal Patron, right through to the treasures in our magnificent library.  

While our rich history is something that we are incredibly proud of, our sights are set firmly on the future. As we emerge from the challenges of covid, Storm Eunice and the recent devastating loss of our little Loki, the tiger cub, we’re committed to achieving exciting new goals as we approach our 200th Anniversary in 2026. 

This year, we will unveil Monkey Valley – a huge redevelopment of the Snowdon Aviary. The prism-like structure, designed by Lord Snowdon and a celebrated icon on the London skyline, is being transformed into a colobus monkey enclosure. As many of our supporters will know, this project hasn’t been without its challenges – not least a couple of nationwide lockdowns and zoo closures thrown into the mix – and we are beyond excited to finally be nearing the finish line. 

Marking a new page in London Zoo’s story, Monkey Valley will allow all of our visitors to see the treetop forest home of the striking colobus monkey. These monochromatic monkeys live in territorial troops and are considered one of the most arboreal of all Africa’s monkeys - they rarely descend to the ground, instead preferring to spend their days jumping and gliding from branch to branch, a spectacle our visitors will be able to witness. 

This immersive, multi-sensory type of experience is just one of the ways we aim to inspire our visitors to care for our planet – getting up close and personal provides an emotional connection like no other and fosters a lifelong love of wildlife and nature that leads to action and change.  

At the end of 2021, we opened Giants of the Galapagos – a brand new home for our tortoise trio, Polly, Dolly and Priscilla. The biggest tortoise species on earth, our three Giant Galapagos females walked the 200 metres from their old pad to their luxurious new home, gently guided by their very patient zookeepers. Visitors can now see them wallowing in their pools, exploring the foliage or simply basking in the 32 degree heat of their enclosure – while learning more about the challenges facing these animals in the wild, and what can be done to address them. 

Galapagos tortoises Dolly, Polly and Priscilla enjoy housewarming treat at ZSL London Zoo

This space is one of two major new developments to the hub of London Zoo – and right next door to it, we’re in the middle of building a brand-new reptile and amphibian exhibit. The Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians will be home to some of the world’s most astonishing diversity, and residents in the new purpose-built space at London Zoo will include three of the world’s largest animals - the world’s largest amphibian, venomous snake and aquatic frog. The opening date is yet to be announced – but watch this space! 

As with all new developments, this does mean that we have to say goodbye to old structures or find new homes for things to make the room we need. London Zoo’s amphitheatre has been demolished to make way for The Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians, and the carousel will be leaving the big smoke for a countryside residence at our sister site, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo for the next year. Unfortunately there was just no room anywhere else at London for the carousel to go where it wouldn’t disturb any animals, but its move means we can continue to develop London Zoo and best provide the best habitats for the creatures in our care.  

We’ve got a packed year of events for visitors at London Zoo, starting with the 40th anniversary of Rod Campbell’s iconic Dear Zoo book this Easter. With storytelling, activity trails and interactive games to play on site, you can join in the event between 2 to 18 April.  

We’ll be honouring our Royal Patron’s incredible milestone this spring – marking HM The Queen’s 70 years on the throne with our very own Zoobilee and this summer we will be celebrating the beauty of colour and the role it plays within the animal kingdom. We’ll also be bringing back our summer Twilight evenings, giving grown-ups the chance to experience the childlike wonder of a zoo visit in June and July.  

While our plans for our 2026 anniversary continue, we are very excited for this coming year; we’re delighted you’re coming along with us for the journey – we promise to make it a fun one! 

 

 

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