Famous Animals

Some of the most famous animals of the world have lived at ZSL London Zoo, including the inspiration for one of the most well known and well loved children's storybook characters - Winnie the Pooh.

Guy the Gorilla

Guy the Gorilla photographed in ZSL London Zoo, 1970.

On Guy Fawkes day 1947, a small gorilla arrived at the Zoo clutching a tin hot-water bottle. Guy became one of the Zoo's best loved characters. When sparrows entered his enclosure, he would scoop them up gently and peer at them before letting them go. He died of a heart attack after having a tooth extracted in 1978. His statue is much loved by London Zoo's visitors.


Josephine was a great Indian hornbill who, for many years, was the oldest animal in the Zoo. She lived in the Bird House until her death in 1998 aged 53.


When Goldie the golden eagle escaped in 1965, Britain became obsessed; for almost a fortnight he appeared on television and in the press and was cheered wildly when mentioned in the House of Commons. Five thousand people caused traffic jams around Regent's Park as he flew from tree to tree. After 11 days and 19 and a half hours, he was finally recaptured and brought back to the Zoo.

The Quagga

Equus quagga by Charles Hamilton Smith (1776-1859)

Thousands of quagga once grazed on the plains of southern Africa, but the species was hunted to extinction in the wild in about 1870.


In 1950 Eros, a wild snowy owl, became lost in a storm and fell exhausted on the deck of HMS Eros off the Azores. During his life at the Zoo he had three mates and fathered 57 chicks. He died in 1993.


This famous Mexican red-kneed bird-eating spider is sadly missed following her death in 1993 aged 22 years. Belinda made many television appearances, including an advert for the Zoo, and helped people overcome their fear of spiders as part of several hypnotherapy programmes.


Photo of Winnie the bear with her keeper, with a background illustration from Winnie the Pooh book.

Winnie was an American black bear who was deposited at the Zoo in 1914 by a Canadian lieutenant at the start of the First World War. She was visited by A.A. Milne and his son Christopher and lives on in the stories of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin.


 Obaysch, the common hippo, by Frederick York, circa 1870.

Such was the excitement when Obaysch arrived in 1850, that the number of visitors doubled that year – not surprising, since he was the first hippopotamus to be seen in Europe since Roman times.

Brumas the Polar Bear

Brumas was born 27 November 1949. Her mother was named Ivy and her father Mischa. Brumas was named after her keepers Bruce and Sam (reversed).

She was the first baby polar bear to be successfully reared in Britain and was an immediate attraction with the public. She caused such interest that, in 1950, the Zoo’s annual attendance figures reached the 3 million mark (around one million more that usual at that time). This has not been exceeded at any time previously or since.

Although Brumas was female, the press had reported that the bear was a ‘he’ and the error was not corrected at the time, so the public thought that the baby was male.

The bear was so popular that newsreels, books, postcards, toys and other souvenirs celebrated her fame. She died on 17 May 1958.

Pipaluk the Polar Bear

Pipaluk, a male polar bear, was born at London Zoo on the 1st December 1967. (The only polar bear cub previously reared successfully at the Zoo had been Brumas – a female.)

The name ‘Pipaluk’, the ending of which rhymes with book, was chosen from a list of Inuit (Eskimo) names – it means ‘the little one’.

Pipaluk’s parents, who had arrived as young cubs from Moscow Zoo in 1960, were called Sam and Sally. They were named after the Zoo’s bear keeper Sam Morton and his fiancée.

Pipaluk left London Zoo in 1985 when the Mappin Terraces (which housed all the bears) were closed, and died at the age of 22 years in a Zoo in Poland.

Jumbo the Elephant

Jumbo the first African elephant at ZSL London Zoo, with Matthew Scott circa 1870. Photographed by Frederick York

Jumbo is believed to have been born in about 1861. When still very small he arrived at the zoo in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris. In 1865 he was sent to London Zoo. On arrival he was in poor condition but placed in the care of Matthew Scott, a former antelope keeper, he flourished.

A female African elephant, Alice, arrived a few months later and the two elephants became associated in the public mind. Jumbo was soon trained to give rides and became a great favourite, largely because he had a very good nature. By the early 1880s Jumbo was nearly 11 feet tall.

Sadly, Jumbo was killed in a railway accident in Canada in 1885.