London Zoo's aviary unwrapped to create new monkey home

Experts abseil down the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park, London, t

Experts abseil down Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo, in Regent's Park, on July 30, 2020 to remove steel mesh panels that wrap the structure, which is to become a new home for a troop of Eastern black and white colobus monkeys. - Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

London Zoo's famous aviary is being unwrapped to create a new home to some of the resident monkeys.   

On Friday (July 30), experts abseiled down the Grade II listed building this morning to peel away the first of 200 mesh panels, dating back to 1965.

The famous Snowdon Aviary is a familiar landmark to people who enjoy walking the canal towpath or on Primrose Hill.

Next summer it will become Monkey Valley, home to a troop of Eastern black and white colobus monkeys.  

Experts abseil down the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park, London, t

- Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

ZSL London Zoo’s director of fundraising and engagement, James Wren, said: “It’s incredible to think that this piece of architectural history has now been seen in its present form on the Primrose Hill skyline for the last time. 

“Taking down the first 25m tall panel was no small feat for everyone involved today and it will take  up to a month of further careful work for the remaining panels to be removed.”  


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Following the renovation, which will include the replacement of over 3800sqm of mesh, the peaked silhouette will be restored to the London skyline.  

The new, more flexible mesh is closer to the vision of original architect Cedric Price, who wanted a steel that had both tensile movement and flexibility - something that didn’t exist at the time.  

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“The original rigid steel mesh panels will be replaced with an exciting new - and more flexible - material, which the agile colobus monkeys will easily be able to climb on and jump from,” said James. 

“We're excited to get to work on this ambitious and sensitive restoration project, which will breathe new life into a truly iconic structure - part of the capital’s history for more than 50 years.” 

The projected is funded by a grant of over £4million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as donations to ZSL.  

Experts abseil down the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park, London, t

Experts abseil down Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo, in Regent's Park, on July 30, 2020 to remove steel mesh panels that wrap the structure, which is to become a new home for a troop of Eastern black and white colobus monkeys. - Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

James said: “Monkey Valley will reflect our world-leading expertise in animal care and - thanks to money raised by National Lottery Players - engage millions of future visitors, while restoring the former Aviary’s position on the London skyline." 

The aviary was conceived by Lord Snowdon and realised by architect Cedric Price with structural engineer Frank Newby, and pioneering in its use of aluminium and tension for support. 

It was inspired by the form of flying birds. The leaps of the colobus from treetop to treetop have earned the species the nickname "high-flying monkeys". 

Experts abseil down the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park, London, t

- Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Experts abseil down the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park, London, t

- Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Experts abseil down the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park, London, t

- Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

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