Making history for wildlife

We’ve been building stronger connections to wildlife for 200 years. Change-makers from the start, from Darwin to Attenborough, we’ve always broken new ground in conservation science and been passionate advocates for wildlife.

By taking bold steps to pioneer new architecture, we've created unique spaces of wonder and learning, advancing knowledge to better protect wildlife and sparking a lifelong love of animals. Whether through popularising the name "Aquarium", inspiring Winnie the Pooh or causing Londoner's to become obsessed with giraffes. 

Time Traveller's Guide to London Zoo

Historic photo of flamingos at Mappin Terraces at London Zoo
Maps, animals and people of our past

Celebrating our history

Journey back through the most iconic moments in our two-hundred years of science, from our trailblazing first female curator to wildlife conservation break-throughs.

Journey through our history

  • Snowdon Aviary construction
    Now reimagined as Monkey Valley

    Snowdon Aviary

    The Snowdon Aviary made history as Britain’s first walk-through aviary, designed to enclose as much open space as possible, stretching up to 24m tall.

  • Penguins at Lubetkin penguin pool at London Zoo designed by Berthold Lubetkin
    Pioneering Berthold Lubetkin design

    Lubetkin penguin pool

    Our Lubetkin Penguin pool at London Zoo is iconic. The sweeping spiral ramps kick-started a new era for British architecture, and inspired an enduring love of penguins in the British public.

  • Black and white photo of giraffes at Decimus Burton's Giraffe House
    England's first giraffes

    Giraffe house history

    When giraffes arrived at London Zoo in 1836, they caused a public sensation. Our giraffes were the first to be seen by the public in England, and made Londoners instantly form a connection with the natural world.

  • Winnie the bear at London Zoo which inspired Winnie the Pooh
    The real story behind Winnie the Pooh

    Winnie the Pooh origins

    Winnie was one of our most famous residents, a black bear taken in when her mother was killed by a hunter and she has an enduring influence on pop culture today.

  • Historic photo of flamingos at Mappin Terraces at London Zoo
    Built over 100 years ago

    Mappin Terraces and Pavilion

    At the time of their creation in 1913, they represented an innovative step to provide more naturalistic settings for animals at the Zoo. Over the years, the terraces have been home to goats, bears, penguins, ibex and snow leopards

  • The London Zoo aquarium photographed in July 1981
    World's first public aquarium

    The Aquarium

    We were home to the world’s first public aquarium. We popularised the name “Aquarium” and pioneered the first environments to provide the correct living conditions for salt-water animals.

  • Zookeeper with a toucan bird
    Home to more than 50 different birds

    Blackburn Pavilion

    Blackburn Pavilion originally housed crocodiles, and is one of the only Victorian animal houses at the Zoo to remain in use today.

  • Sketch of London Zoo East Tunnel
    War world II history

    East Tunnel

    One of the oldest surviving features at the Zoo, this tunnel was was served as an air raid shelter for employees and local people during World War II.

The original scientific Zoo

Proudly breaking down barriers and taking bold steps, we’re an organisation of firsts. The first female fellow of a learned society was one of our founding members; and many other women at ZSL have broken glass ceilings.

In wildlife conservation we pioneered the first zoological collection for science; and we created the first red list for critically endangered species; we were first to document new species in the wild from the Okapi to the horned frog, and we’ve spearheaded international breeding programmes to protect species and reintroduce them to the wild; we’ve harnessed breakthrough innovations to improve animal monitoring; and state of the art technologies to detect and prevent wildlife threats from new diseases to illegal poaching.

This pioneering spirit and desire to make wildlife matter in the world still drives us today, as we embrace new techniques and technologies to maximise our impact, while inspiring collective action to shape a healthier and fairer future for us all. We won’t stop until that future is here

For two hundred years our animals have been capturing the imagination of millions of visitors.

More from our history

  • Guy the silverback gorilla at London Zoo
    Guy the gorilla, Jumbo the elephant and quaggas

    Our famous animals

    The iconic animals in our history which brought people closer to nature and inspired generations of conservationists.

  • The Reptile House at London Zoo in 1928 with formal flower beds along the paths to the entrance.
    Pioneering reptile understanding

    Reptile House history

    The Reptile House was designed by Dr Joan Beauchamp Procter, our first woman curator, and became hailed as one most sophisticated building for animal care and science.

  • A view of London Zoo by James Hakewill from 1835 and featuring the Raven's Cage and the Llama House. In the background a bear is being fed by visitors. The Raven's Cage has since been relocated.
    A monument of our history

    Ravens' Cage

    Designed by London Zoo’s original architect, Decimus Burton, this ornate ironwork aviary dates back to our earliest days.

  • A portrait of the gorilla 'Meng'. London Zoo, June 1939.
    One of Britain’s first modernist buildings

    Round house

    Designed for gorillas by Berthold Lubetkin, the building was home to our first gorillas Mok and Moina.

  • The Snowdon Aviary from the West Footbridge. There are visitors crossing the bridge. London Zoo, 1964.
    Architecture history

    Architecture at London Zoo

    From the beginning, architecture has been an integral part of London Zoo. Our buildings blend into Regent's Park and have enabled visitors to share spaces with wildlife for two-hundred years.

  • Air raid shelter at London Zoo
    How animals were looked after during the war

    The Zoo during World War Two

    War broke out on 3rd September 1939. At 11.00am London Zoo was closed by order of the Government, as were all other public places where people gathered in large numbers.

  • Outside Tiny Giants building
    Taking inspiration from nature

    Sustainability at Tiny Giants

    Opened by Queen Elizabeth I and Prince Philip, we built our Tiny Giants building to be as sustainable as possible.

  • Designed by Decimus Burton in 1828 for llamas, in 1831 a clock was added to the top of the building, and the llamas were replaced with camels.
    Decimus Burton design

    Clock Tower

    The oldest original building at the Zoo, and it still has closing-time bell on the outside of the building.

World's first aquarium

London Zoo fish house, the first public aquarium in the world. Fish tanks are laid out on tables.
Introducing aquariums to the world

Change-makers from the start

We were home to the world's first public aquarium in May 1853. Our 'Fish House' was revolutionary for its time, the possibility of making tanks from large sheets of plate glass enabled visitors to have an underwater view of the life in tanks.