ZSL stands for: ‘Zoological society of London’ in short. With such a long name comes an even bigger size to match. A vast territory on 36 acres of land with over 720 different species of animals, the Zoological society of London sure lives up to its name!
A day at the ZSL London Zoo is a brilliant way to immerse yourself into the animal kingdom.
In fact, one day at the ZSL is simply not enough. Even though we didn’t have enough time to completely explore and discover everything that Londons’ Zoo had to offer; overloaded with so many photos and information, i’ll be breaking this entry into two separate posts.
Though we wished we had more time to finish viewing the remaining exhibits we’ve missed…
ZSL is actively involved in ‘bringing down the bars’ by creating interactive, fully-immersive and inspiring exhibits. As visitors walk around the Zoo’s 36 acre site, they are undoubtly brought closer to nature.
In recent years new exhibits, such as Tiger Territory, Penguin Beach, Animal Adventure, Giants of the Galapagos, Butterfly Paradise, Meet the Monkeys, Rainforest Life, Gorilla Kingdom and the Blackburn Pavilion, showcase how ZSL creates realistic environments to house some of the world’s most impressive and inspiring animals.
(Part 1 of 2)
Below is a list of the various sections and areas that the ZSL Zoo features – in Part 1.
ZSL London Zoo has had an Aquarium since 1853, and has a fascinating history. Separated into three different halls which are home to different types of fish, the Aquarium is involved in many different conservation projects and breeding programs.
ZSL London Zoo holds a very important position in aquatic history, as it was the very first place to establish and open a public aquarium.
History of the Aquarium
On the 18th February 1852, the Council of the Zoological Society agreed that work should start immediately on the building of an Aquatic Vivarium (the original term for a fish tank or fish enclosure) and in 1853, the ‘Fish House’ was opened to the public.
However soon after, Philip Henry Gosse started calling the ‘Aquatic Vivariums’ – ‘Aquariums’, this world-recognized term we use today for describing any display of marine life was taken up and popularized by London Zoo.
This didn’t please everybody as the word ‘aquarium’ in classical Latin actually means a watering place for cattle but it soon caught on!
Inside the original ‘Fish House’ were over 300 different breeds of marine life, not just fish, but also many other species of invertebrates. This was the first time aquatic animals had been kept and cared for on such a large scale, in enclosed tanks.
The Aquarium as we know it now was not built until 1921, as the public demand to see the fish at London Zoo was ever increasing.
It was built on a different site in London Zoo to the original aquarium and is now housed under the Mappin Terraces section of the Zoo. The Aquarium was opened by King George V and his wife Queen Mary in April 1924.
Presently, the collection of fishes has vastly increased and now, there are many exotic, beautiful and even weird fish in the Aquarium..
Enter the Reptile House to find ZSL London Zoo’s amazing collection of reptiles and amphibians, including snakes, lizards, frogs and crocodiles!
As you can see from the amount of pictures taken in this section of the Zoo alone, did you manage to guess that this is my favorite section? 🙂
The Reptile House is home to some of the biggest and most venomous snakes on earth. Be sure to take a walk inside and discover about some of the most popular snakes at ZSL London Zoo and also, find out which snakes are the fastest and longest in the world…
History of the Reptile House
The Reptile House is one of ZSL’s famous buildings dating all the way back to 1926.
You may also recognize the Reptile House from one of the beginning scenes from the first Harry Potter film!
The Reptile House you visit at ZSL London Zoo today, was built in the year 1926. It was erected on the site of the Ape House, and two other Reptile Houses had existed previously, the first erected in 1849 – before ZSL London Zoo had even opened to the public. The second of the two Reptile Houses was built in the year; 1882.
The building itself was designed by Joan Beauchamp Proctor (who was the Curator of Reptiles), with the architect Sir Edward Guy Dawber. The reptile sculptures at the entrance to the building were by the sculpture George Alexander. At the time, the building was hailed as one of the most sophisticated building of its type in the world.
Among other key features, the Reptile House has differentiated heating to provide ‘hot spots’ for the reptiles and ‘aquarium principle’ lighting which means the visitors walk around in relative darkness and lighting highlights the animals in their environments.
Now for Harry Potter fans…
A famous scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was filmed in the Reptile House in November 2001. In the scene, a Burmese python speaks to Harry Potter, played by Daniel Radcliffe for the first time. In fact, the enclosure which was filmed, is actually home to the Black Mamba Snake.
Amphibians and Reptiles – Who’s Who?
Centuries ago it was thought that amphibians and reptiles were closely related, but although they evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago they are now as different from each other as mammals and birds!
Giants of the Galapagos
As part of our Darwin 200 celebrations, ZSL London Zoo opened ‘Giants of the Galapagos’, home to three magnificent Galapagos tortoises – Dirk, Dolly, Dolores, Polly and Priscilla.
The new exhibit is part of ZSL’s ongoing integrated conservation program and Giants of the Galapagos exhibit is now open after a long wait – and its star attraction is an energetic pensioner!
ZSL London Zoo’s Giants of the Galapagos exhibit introduces its star attraction – an energetic pensioner called Dirk.
He might be clocking in at around seventy years of age, but one of ZSL London Zoo’s newest animals has not one, not two but four females living in his brand new boudoir.
Dirk – the Galapagos tortoise, and his two new ladies Dolly, 16 and Dolores, 14 are the first inhabitants of the new Giants of the Galapagos exhibit and all three of them have been making the most of their new love shack.
When he arrived at his new home Dirk, who weighs an impressive 200kg, had not seen a female tortoise for nearly eighteen months – but is definitely making up for lost time.
Since being introduced to Dolly and Dolores, Dirk (the pedophile) has been mating with them constantly – creating a tortoise love triangle.
Romeo Dirk marks a sharp contrast to the famously solitary Galapagos tortoise ‘Lonesome George’, who lives alone on the Galapagos Island of Pinta and is thought to be the last there.
ZSL London Zoo’s sprightly pensioner and his svelte ladies, who weigh almost half as much as him, now live in a luxurious love pad kitted out with watering holes, heated mud wallows and climate controlled temperatures.
Ian Stephen, ZSL’s Assistant Curator of Herpetology, said: “I think Dirk has taken quite a shine to Dolly in particular – they traveled here together and have been inseparable ever since.”
Visitors are now able to view the Zoo’s three gentle giants in their new home.
With razor sharp teeth and toxic saliva that can fell a buffalo, ZSL London Zoo’s pair of Komodo dragons are formidable predators.
The Dragons’ Den
Come and get face to face with the dragons prowling their state-of-the-art dragon’s lair and enjoy panoramic views through an unbroken sweep of more than twenty meters of dragon-proof glass.
The dragon’s home has been naturally landscaped to mimic a dry river bed, complete with lush vegetation and sounds of Indonesian birds.
The dragons at ZSL London Zoo are also part of the European Conservation Breeding Program.
Komodo dragon stars in Bond movie
Komodo dragon Raja has been drawing the crowds at ZSL London Zoo for over six years but in 2012 he reached a global audience as a “Bond villain” in film Skyfall.
The Zoo’s charismatic, male komodo dragon was filmed in his exhibit to be used for a special CGI scene with James Bond himself, played by Daniel Craig.
The filming, which took place in December 2011, focused on Raja’s natural behaviors including the way Komodos bite and how they use their tongues to smell and detect their surroundings. Filmmakers also took Raja’s measurements to recreate the dragon using special effects technology for the blockbuster film.
The Amphibian Wing
The new Amphibian Wing of the Reptile House is now open!
The new and improved amphibian exhibit focuses on the evolution of amphibians; their astounding diversity and adaptability; the threats they face in the wild; and how ZSL is working to conserve them.
From lungfish and mudskippers, to worm-like caecilians, fascinating newts and charismatic tree frogs, the new Amphibian Wing shows how varied amphibians can be.
The ‘conservation in action’ lab allows visitors to engage with ZSL zookeepers and scientists who are conducting research for Mallorcan midwife toads, Sardinian brook salamanders and Alpine newts to investigate the effects of the deadly Chytridiomycosis disease in these species.
This research is imperative to developing techniques and treatments for use in the field to help save wild populations of amphibians from the imminent risk of extinction.
Reptiles and amphibians are some of the most threatened groups on the planet. Pressures such as the deadly chytrid fungus, illegal trade, habitat loss and climate change have led to predictions that a large proportion of all reptile and amphibian species could go extinct over the next century.
ZSL is currently working to save several species and to keep tabs on chytrid fungus in the UK.
There are more than 7,000 species of amphibians alive today and they come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
Meet some of the fascinating characters who live in the brand new amphibian wing in ZSL London Zoo’s Reptile House.
Poison dart frog
Kissing these frogs is not a good idea, no enchanted princes here! Poison dart frogs secrete toxins from their skin, produced from the foods they eat. Some native American tribes wipe hunting blow-darts on the frogs’ skin, hence their name.
Some species of these poison dart frogs produce such powerful toxins, that one single frog could kill a hundred humans!
Waxy monkey frog
Giant waxy monkey frogs are from the Amazon rainforest and in true Halloween spirit these nocturnal amphibians only come out in darkness. These distinctive looking frogs are a bright green with white areas and silvery eyes. They live in high trees and resemble leaves when sleeping.
They produce a waxy secretion which they spread all over their bodies with their flexible limbs. The ‘monkey’ in their name refers to their ability to walk or climb rather than jump between branches.
The African bullfrog is a large carnivorous frog measuring up to 10 inches in length. Unusually for frogs, the females of the species are much smaller than the males. It eats mice, insects, small birds, fish, lizards or even other frogs.
The African bullfrog uses its calls to locate others, especially during mating season, and has a loud, deep bellow.
Mountain chicken frog
The mountain chicken is a critically endangered frog only found in Dominica and Montserrat.
It was the traditional national dish of Dominica before the deadly chytrid fungus reached the Caribbean and the species population plunged by 80%. The name mountain chicken comes from the fact that the frog’s meat tastes like chicken. The frog lives mainly in the lowlands and not in the mountains.
As part of conservation work in Dominica and Monserrat, ZSL conservationists carried out a rescue expedition. They were able to track down seven of the frogs and remove them from their native habitat before they succumbed to chytrid.
The animals are now kept at ZSL London Zoo and have been successfully bred by zookeepers.
Find serenity in the urban jungle!
Gorilla Kingdom brings the African rainforest to the heart of London. Visitors can get breathtakingly close to our colony of western lowland gorillas in a natural and engaging environment.
Kumbuka, Effie, Zaire and Jookie – at ZSL London Zoo you can get up close to the resident gorillas in their flash pad, Gorilla Kingdom.
Walking into this beautiful and atmospheric exhibit, you will begin to catch glimpses from the forested pathway into the scenic clearing. Further up, upon entering the African aviary you will witness some of the beautiful birds that share the environment with the Western Lowland Gorillas, as they fly around you.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take the gorilla tracking trail and wind your way around the African forest environment. Learn about gorillas and the forests they inhabit with interactive activities and exhibits and visit the ZSL field station to learn about the important and fascinating work that ZSL is undertaking, out in the field.
Venturing further into Gorilla Kingdom you will come across a stunning clearing, surrounded by water and picturesque foliage. Here you will see the majestic Western Lowland Gorillas and black and white colobus monkeys living together.
Beautiful dappled light will guide the way into the Gorillas indoor space.
Exploring this exhibit further, you will have the opportunity to get up close to the large gorillas as they move around their home. Within this area, you will also have the opportunity to see our monitor lizard and white-naped mangabeys, plus other animals from Africa.
In the wild, they live in the lush tropical rain forest of six countries across West and Central Africa.
Gorillas are the largest of all primates, with an adult male weighing between 157-273kg and slightly smaller adult females weighing in between 66-136kg. They have large canine teeth and muscular arms but are actually very gentle and sociable animals.
They live in family groups that are led by a dominant male more commonly known as a ‘silverback’ due to the large band of silver colored hair that covers his back.
The silverback leads other members of his group, usually at least one but often many adult females, and their offspring, through the forest on their search for food and rest locations. He mediates conflicts between group members, and is responsible for the safety of the group.
Occasionally they may meet other groups or solitary males that live alone in the forest after leaving their own families and getting ready to start their own.
The gorillas communicate to each other in a variety of ways.
They grunt, cough and hoot and like humans, communicate many things though facial expressions and body postures. They also beat their chests with cupped hands and can charge for a short distance on two legs, although normally walk on four limbs – their feet and the knuckles of their hands.
Western lowland gorillas eat a lot of fruit and also leaves, shoots, stalks, stems, vines and bark. Occasionally, they have been known to snack on invertebrates such as termites.
They wake up early in the morning after spending the night in nests that they have built from the leaves and branches around them from the trees or the ground.
These gorillas spend the morning searching for food, sometimes take a rest at midday, and continue to search for food until dusk when they build new nests and sleep.
Western lowland gorillas have been estimated to live for between 30 to 35 years in the wild while their average life span is 35 to 45 years in zoos, with the current record being 54 years.
Animal Adventure, is another new section of London’s ZSL Zoo.
Its purpose is to serve as a new children’s zoo, allowing children the chance to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, smells and experiences of life, in the animal kingdom.
When ZSL London Zoo first opened in the 1820s, most Britons didn’t know what a giraffe looked like. Today, people are not only familiar with such animals, they want to interact with them and protect them
Conservation is increasingly about finding ways in which mankind can successfully share space with wildlife around the world. ZSL champions that change and reflect it.
All the new exhibits are based upon the relationship between people and wildlife, encouraging visitors to get to know the animals as never before.
And chief among those visitors are the children; tomorrow’s conservationists and scientists who we need to arm today with the enthusiasm to take our understanding of wildlife on to greater and greater heights.
Tree Top Zone
Start your adventure at Treetop Village and meet the coatis who make their lives among the leaves. Kids will have the freedom to climb, swing and visit the lookout towers for a treetop view of the world.
From the tops of the trees down to the roots, visitors will be led through the earth to explore an underground world. A network of tunnels lets kids explore, challenge their fears and meet underground animals in their own habitats.
The water-based zone near the cafe lets children play and learn how water gives life and the importance of conserving the environment.
This area allows kids to become active in our mini stream, take a seat in our secret garden or be enchanted by some story telling in the tipi.
The most interactive zone in this area of ZSL Zoo is the Touch Zone. Touch Zone lets children get hands on to groom and feed our goats and sheep as well as meet our donkeys, llamas and kune-kune pigs.
From the long-legged emu to the tiny hummingbird, there are over 100 species of birds at ZSL London Zoo. ZSL is working hard in the field to save many bird species and their habitats.
In the Victorian tropical bird house Blackburn Pavilion and all over the Zoo, discover a little more about the birds who call here, home.
Tropical birds fly freely inside the restored Victorian bird house – Blackburn Pavillion. Walk amongst tropical plants, pools and even an indoor waterfall surrounded by the sounds of bird song in the air.
Take a tour around the inside of the new tropical bird walk-through of the Blackburn Pavilion, and be transported to a jungle paradise in the center of London!
The exhibit features a host of tropical birds flying freely inside the restored Victorian bird house.
Meet the macaws, the highly intelligent and most recognizable of the parrot family due to their bright, vibrant feathers.
This stunning national bird of Trinidad is distinctive and instantly recognizable with its vivid scarlet feathers, which brighten with age.
Visually spectacular, these birds nest, feed, and fly in large groups in the wild.
The Scarlet ibis feeds on crustaceans, and other water-dwelling creatures, by wading slowly through shallow waters with the tip of its bill submerged in the water to probe through the mud. The pigment of the crustaceans consumed is absorbed, thereby causing their feathers to become deep red in color.
One of the smallest species of kookaburra this bird has more blue wing feathers than any other species in its family. However it makes up for its slight size by being very noisy!
The blue-winged kookaburra behaves similarly to the well known Laughing kookaburra but is shyer and much less approachable.
It will usually be found perched inconspicuously on a tree branch during the exhausting afternoon heat of Northern Australia.
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