London Zoo marks its 192nd anniversary in lockdown with fascinating archive images

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

The Regent’s Park attraction was founded as a space where scientists could study animals and has become a much loved institution for generations of wildlife lovers

Keeper, Ernie Sceales, gives three penguins a shower from a watering can. London Zoo 1919.

Keeper, Ernie Sceales, gives three penguins a shower from a watering can. London Zoo 1919. - Credit: FW Bond

London Zoo marked its 192nd anniversary on Monday in the midst of its toughest challenge yet.

To celebrate almost two centuries of scientific study, conservation and protecting endangered species, ZSL released some fascinating images from its archives which date back to 1828.

At a time when the Regent’s Park attraction is calling on the British public for support to ensure its work continues while it is closed to the public - the pictures are a reminder of the long and distinguished history of the world’s oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL London Zoo was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, the Lieutenant Governor of Java, perhaps best known for founding Singapore.

Portrait of Jenny, the first orangutan at London Zoo. Printed by W Clerk, High Holborn, in December

Portrait of Jenny, the first orangutan at London Zoo. Printed by W Clerk, High Holborn, in December 1837. The first orangutan to be shown at London Zoo. She arrived on 25 November 1837, purchased from a Mr Moss for £150. She was put in the specially heated Giraffe House and soon attracted excited crowds of people. On 28 March 1838, Charles Darwin came to the Zoo to see Jenny. It was his first sight of an ape - Credit: W Clerk


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He wanted the zoo to give scientists the chance to study animals with as much attention and depth as Kew had given to botany.

Creating the first menagerie in the world devoted to the understanding of wildlife, it opened its gates for the first time on Sunday April 27, 1828.

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The ‘Daily Occurrences’ – records kept throughout its history - note that the then Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington, was among 80 high-profile guests on opening day. Until 1847 it was open only to Fellows of the Society and became a favoured spot for naturalist Charles Darwin to test his theories; his relationship with ZSL’s curator of birds and an orangutan named Jenny helped cement his ground-breaking ideas about evolution.

Throughout its history, the zoo has been home to many famous animals including Obaysch, Europe’s first hippo since Roman times, Guy the gorilla, named because he arrived on fireworks night, Jumbo the elephant, who lived at the zoo in the 1860s, and Winnipeg or Winnie, a Canadian black bear, rescued by cavaly vet Harry Colebourn in 1915, who inspired AA Milne’s famous creation when son Christopher Robin took a shine to her.

1939 Princess Elizabeth visits London Zoo

1939 Princess Elizabeth visits London Zoo - Credit: Archant

The institution has had six monarchs as its patron, is credited with adding the words ‘zoo’, ‘aquarium’ and ‘jumbo’ to the English language, and helped to launch the career of national treasure, Sir David Attenborough – after he worked on the BBC’s Zoo Quest. ZSL Director General, Dominic Jermey said: “It is somewhat bittersweet that we celebrate this remarkable anniversary with the Zoo closed to the public, for the first time since World War Two, and for the longest duration in our history - but we can take solace in sharing some of our amazing achievements and milestones.

“ZSL London Zoo is an iconic institution which has achieved so much but has so much more to do. Founded as a place for the study of animals, that ethos still guides us today – everything we do is with the intent of creating a world where wildlife thrives.

“During the Blitz, the War Cabinet asked us to reopen quickly to raise the spirits of Londoners; today, we raise spirits and awareness across the UK with our stories and videos of zoo life going on behind closed doors.

“We are now asking for support to ensure we can overcome these unprecedented challenges. With people needing to reconnect with nature more than ever, wildlife under threat from illegal wildlife trade, over-exploitation, and habitat loss, we’ve got a crucial job to do.”

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin Milne

Winnie the bear and Christopher Robin Milne - Credit: Archant

To donate to ZSL London Zoo visit zsl.org/support-our-zoos

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo

Sir David Attenborough at London Zoo - Credit: Archant

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