Friday, December 21, 2012

Edinburgh Zoo Centenary Timeline

Edinburgh Zoo Celebrates its Centenary in 2013


Zoo Beginnings 1909 – 1913
The Zoological Society of Scotland was formally constituted on 18 March 1909 by the Edinburgh Lawyer Thomas Gillespie.

The site of Edinburgh Zoo was bought with help from the local council for a sum of £17,000 and was opened to the public on 22 July 1913. There were originally 27 acres of park with 45 acres to the north that was used as a golf course. The Society took over these 45 acres and incorporated it as part of the park. £8,000 was estimated for an initial collection of animals and to adapt the existing buildings.

Thomas Gillespie was the first secretary of the Society and the first Director of the Zoo. Lord Salvesen was the President of the Society from 1909 to 1942.

The early footprint of the southern aspect of the site was designed by the social visionary and town planner, Patrick Geddes, along with his son-in-law Frank Mears.

The first enclosure to be started was the polar bear enclosure (now the Stellar’s Sea Eagle), with the quarried rock used to build the roads.

July 15th 1913, the zoo opened to the Fellows and a week later to the public, only four months after work began.

The Carnegie Aquarium is opened by The Earl of Elgin, Chair of the Carnegie UK Trust. Even though the Society was offered £10,000 from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust in 1915 for the construction of an Aquarium, building didn’t begin until 1924 due to the war. It was a grand display, with a handsome entrance hall with two large oval pools, a main tank hall with tanks along each side and charismatic marine life such as loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, conger eels, lobsters, crabs, electric eels and lung fish. It was demolished in 1987, but you can still see the old entrance to the Aquarium by today’s main entrance.

Baboon Rock was created where the original wolves’ house was. A wonderful mass of rock was revealed which was perfect for the baboons.


July, park visited by King George V and Queen Mary. They were particularly attracted by the collection of penguins and much amused by their habits at feeding time. They were due to stay for 20 minutes, but actually stayed more than 2 hours.


In August, the first giraffe ever seen in Scotland arrived at the Zoo. George was born in Bristol and his journey north provided a problem – him being 11 feet tall. Too tall to pass under railway bridges or overhanging tree branches on the roads. It was arranged that he should travel by sea from Avonmouth to Glasgow and thence motor lorry through the night.

1946 His Majesty King George VI and HRH the Princess Margaret visited during this year.

In 1946 and 1947 a long list of new arrivals were welcomed to the Zoo. Including llamas, pumas, beavers, coyotes, black bears, tree porcupines, racoons, marmots, armadillos, sea lions, gibbons, Iceland foxes, slender loris, ostriches, rheas, storks, cranes and many more.

1963 Jubilee! HRH Prince Philip accepts Honorary Fellowship and visits the Zoo. Other Jubilee celebrations include a Civic Reception held by Lord and Lady Provost and a Cocktail Party for fellows and friends of the Society.


In 1966, two young chimpanzees Ricky (4 years) and Cindy (3 years) arrived at the zoo. Ricky became a mascot on a merchant navy ship after the probable slaughter of his parents for the illegal bush meat trade. Although he was well cared for, the merchant navy realised as he grew older that they couldn’t offer an ideal environment for the chimp. Although often difficult for chimps like Ricky who was separated from other chimps at a young age, Ricky was warmly accepted by the group at Edinburgh Zoo due to his calm and gentle nature. Ricky lived to the grand old age of 50 and died on 31st January 2012. Cindy is still alive today and we will be celebrating her 49th birthday in October 2013.


Umfolozi and Kruger the white rhinos Arrived 1976 when they were 6 years old. Umfolozi and Kruger became famous white rhinos, giving birth to 12 calves over the years. Umfolozi first gave birth on 27 October 1976 and the 12th born on 20 October 2000. She died in 2005 at the age of 35 years.


The Education Centre was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The former cafeteria and souvenir shop was converted, partly in operation in 1973. It was created to create awareness in the community of wildlife and environmental matters.


The opening of the Orientation Centre in the new gate and shop complex by Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in the Society’s 75th Anniversary.

1992 The Zoo hosted the 9th European Endangered Species Programme conference, the first to be held in Britain. With 140 people representing 62 institutions from 15 countries, it was the largest EEP meeting to date.

1992 HRH Princess Royal opens the new penguin enclosure

The Darwin Maze was opened by HRH The Princess Royal. It was shaped like a tortoise as on Darwin’s trips to the Galapagos he started to formulate his theory of evolution due to the different adaptations the tortoises there had depending on their environment.


The Education Department started its ‘Summer School’ with four one week summer courses for children aged 6-14 years. It was so successful that it is now an annual feature at the zoo.

2005 The koala enclosure was opened and Chumbee and Jannalie were the first two males to occupy the new home.

Budongo Trail is opened by HRH The Princess Royal. The Budongo Trail is a cutting edge enclosure which can house up to 30 chimpanzees. It incorporates three living pods of varying temperature, humidity and layout; and an extensive outdoor climbing frame. It offers a world-class interactive exhibit for visitors to learn about the primates and their habitat, as well as an array of opportunities to view the chimps close up from platforms and panoramic windows.

The enclosure is closely linked to the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda – the largest chimpanzee enclosure in the world and incorporates a purpose built research centre. RSZZ has been core funding the field station since 2005 to ensure sustainable management and utilization of the Budongo Forest Reserve as a model for tropical rainforest management.

Living Links opens. This is a field station and research centre for the study of primates. The centre has been developed in partnership with the University of St Andrews. Brown capuchin monkeys and common squirrel monkeys have their own indoor enclosures and outdoor areas where they can form mixed-species groups.

2009 Gardening team planted the centenary floral crest to commemorate the centenary celebrations of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. It was located at the entrance to the zoo and comprised of nine different plant species.

In January 2011, an agreement was signed between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association for the 10 year loan of two giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo. The panda pair Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrived on Sunday 4th December 2011.

Penguins and Edinburgh Zoo

A cold day in 1914, Gillespie went to Leith Docks to meet the steamer ‘Coronda’ which was bringing a gift of two elephant seals and 6 penguins (four kings, one gentoo and one macaroni) from the Firm of Christian Salvesen (Edward Theodore Salvesen was the first president of the Society). The shape of a ship’s bow seen at the penguin enclosure today honours the penguins’ historical links to the shipping company.

At first, the king penguins resided in the duck pond until in 1915 a penguin pool was built at a cost of £150. They continued to thrive and were the subject of much interest and attention, being the only king penguins in Europe.

In 1917, three more penguins brought from South Georgia, one exchanged with London Zoo for a sea lion. So now they had 5 – Andrew, Bertha, Caroline, Eric and Dora (A-B-C-D-E). Courting began in 1915 and signs of incubation instinct, then finally an egg appeared in 1918 but it was broken after a fortnight’s incubation. In 1919, another egg was laid and the chick was duly hatched – making it the first king penguin birth outside the southern hemisphere.

From 1932 – 1950, 83 kings, 72 gentoo, 53 macaroni, 44 chinstrap, 20 ringed and 34 rockhopper penguins were brought to the Zoo.

In 1952, the world famous penguin parade began. When a gate was left open and a Gentoo penguin escaped, the keeper decided to see what would happen. It was followed by other penguins and they marched down to the front of the Zoo, along the pavement on Corstorphine road. The keeper turned them around and they marched back by a different route. The penguin parade is entirely voluntary; the penguins can choose to be involved so sometimes there can only be a few in the parade, sometimes many.

.Famous Faces

Wojtek, Brown Bear Wojtek the brown bear was adopted as a cub by the 22nd Company Polish Army Service and Corps (Artillery) troops in 1942, after an Iranian boy swapped the bear for cans of food. As the bear was less than a year old, he initially had problems swallowing and was fed with condensed milk from an emptied vodka bottle. He quickly became a firm favourite of the troops and in 1944 was enlisted as an honorary soldier and mascot for the soldiers, complete with name, rank and number. He became very tame and would roll about and play with the soldiers.

Wojtek stayed with his unit throughout the entire Italian campaign. When the Company was assigned to help supply food and ammunition to the Allied Forces in the battle of Monte Cassino, the Soldier Bear travelled to the battle with the troops and, without prompting, helped to carry boxes of 25lb artillery shells for his comrades under heavy gunfire without dropping a single one.

After the war ended, the 22nd Company was billeted in Winfield Camp, near Hutton in Berwickshire. Wojtek was one of around three thousand troops in the camp and became a very popular figure with locals in the Borders. In November 1947, Wojtek was loaned to Edinburgh Zoo by the Polish army. He died of old age in 1963 after a very contented life.

Sir Nils Olav, King Penguin
Sir Nils Olav, a king penguin, is the mascot to the Royal Norwegian Guard. He was named after two people: Major Nils Egelien (who organised to adopt one of Edinburgh Zoo’s King Penguins in 1972) and King Olav V of Norway. After his adoption, Sir Nils was given the role of mascot of the Norwegian Guard. Since then, each time the Guard has visited the zoo, Sir Nils has inspected the troops and received a promotion (Lance Corporal 1972, Corporal 1982, Sergeant 1987, Regimental Sergeant major 1993, Colonel-in-Chief 2005). In 2008 he was given the prestigious honour of a knighthood - a position so high it had to be approved the King of Norway, King Harald V. The ceremony was lavish, and a crowd of several hundred joined 130 Guardsmen as Nils walked down to receive his knighthood.

Philip, Chimpanzee Philip came from Nigeria 1933 where he had previously been trained as a ‘house boy’, which involved duties such as fetching papers and untying shoes.

Mercedes, Polar Bear
Mercedes was rescued from northern Canada in 1984 where she was due to be shot for being a nuisance to local townsfolk.

Mercedes arrived in 1984 after being rescued from Canada. She was scheduled to be shot when she started roaming into a nearby town in search of food. Luckily The Royal Zoological Society offered her a home at Edinburgh Zoo. The car company Mercedes-Benz assisted with the costs of her transport which is how she got her name. Mercedes moved to a four acre purpose built enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park in 2009 where she happily spent the rest of her days.

Sundra, Elephant

April 1914 – Sundra arrived as a gift from the Maharajah of Mysore. About 4 years old and her stature at the time was about 4 foot 9. Gillespie had a saddle made for her – a small one holding 4 little children and she gave many rides during the summer. As she was so docile it was possible to take her out of the park and she was walked down at regular intervals to the weigh-bridge at Corstorphine Station so that her growth could be recorded. Sundra lived until 1943.

2013 will see Edinburgh Zoo celebrating its centenary year. This special milestone of 100 years is a fantastic opportunity to look back at the stories from the Zoo’s beginnings, to celebrate what the Zoo continues to achieve year on year, and to look to the future.

There is going to be a whole host of activities to mark this truly special occasion that the Zoo has reached.

Chris West, CEO at The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, commented:

“Next year we will warmly welcome in the 100th year of Edinburgh Zoo. The centenary is a truly exciting time for the Society and the Zoo, it’s a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the past years, looking back to the origins of the Zoo and the journey it’s been on from when we first opened our doors through to the present day. Whilst looking back at the past, it’s also the ideal time to look forward, to the future of Edinburgh Zoo and where we see ourselves in the next 100 years – a remarkable and exciting prospect for all.

“To well and truly celebrate the upcoming centenary year, the Zoo will be hosting a vast and diverse range of events, some of which include many firsts for the Zoo. Such as sand sculptures, which will showcase a few of the famous animal residents throughout the years, brand new Zoo Nights, which will be two late night, adult only Zoo experiences. On top of all this there will also be a range of themed talks and lectures which will focus on the role of a modern Zoo in the 21st century, as well as a unique Edinburgh Zoo Centenary Exhibition, which will track key moments throughout the Zoo’s history.

“With 100 years of Edinburgh Zoo history to cover, there are a phenomenal amount of memories and special moments that visitors have experienced. It is these personal and fond memories that we are hoping to collect from a wide range local people at any age who have visited the Zoo over the years; be it on film, photos, or anything, we would love to hear from those who have experienced Edinburgh Zoo, no matter the year of visit and hear about their very own little piece of Zoo history.”

Centenary exhibition
There will be an exhibition taking place at the Central Library in Edinburgh from 1st April to 31st May 2013, which will guide visitors through Edinburgh Zoo’s 100 year history. There will be a timeline with key dates, information on famous animal residents that have lived at the Zoo over the years as well as details of the numerous conservation, education and research projects the Zoo has been involved with throughout the course of the Zoo’s long and colourful history.

As part of the Centenary Exhibition there will also be two evening talks taking place at the Central Library and Edinburgh Zoo’s very own Education team will be doing two outreach days, to coincide with this landmark year.

Centenary screenings
One of Edinburgh Zoo’s state of the art animal enclosures – the Budongo trail home to the Zoo’s 19 lively chimps – will play host to a number of screening of documentaries and footage which will be shown in the lecture theatre every Tuesday throughout the year. These will include ‘The Chimpcam Project’, ‘Wojtek The Bear That Went to War’, footage from Scottish Screen Archives and ‘Wild About Pandas’ – the documentary that tells the tale of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang and their arrival to their new home in the Scottish capital.

They will start at 11am and run until about 3pm.

Centenary Lectures
Alongside the talks by keepers, we will have a number of special guest lecturers visiting the Zoo with a theme of looking at the role of zoos in the 21st century. Confirmed are Doug Allan (well-known wildlife cameraman for many Attenborough series’), Lee Durrell (honorary director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust), Andrew Balmford (Professor of conservation biology at the University of Cambridge), Aubrey Manning (zoologist, broadcaster and expert on animal behavior), Lena Linden (founder of Nordens Ark in Sweden) and Living Links’ Andrew Whiten. Jane Goodall is also a possibility, but this is unconfirmed.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s – the charity that owns and operates Edinburgh Zoo – Chief Executive Officer, Chris West will also be giving a lecture at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Scottish universities will also play host to several lectures and talks from Chris West CEO, Douglas Richardson Animal Collection Manager at the Highland Wildlife Park, Edinburgh Zoo’s sister park who celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2012 and Iain Valentine Director of Conservation and Research.
Animal Birthdays
We’ve picked out a different animal birthday every month to mark throughout the year, including Cindy the chimpanzee who will be 49 years old and the sunbears, Rotana and Somnang who will be turning 10. A birthday banner will be placed at the enclosure by keepers, as well as this the animals will also receive special birthday themed enrichment will on the day and Compass will mark every birthday with specially themed cupcakes for sale.

Edinburgh Zoo Nights
New for the centenary, Edinburgh Zoo will be launching an exciting after hours, adult only event, with entertainment, music, silent disco, food and drink, animal talks and encounters, a street market and lots more. These are scheduled to take place on Friday 24th May and Friday 28th June 2013.

Dream Night
Edinburgh Zoo has organised Dream Nights in the past and they proved to be hugely popular and an incredible experience for all Zoo staff who took part. So for the centenary year Dream Night has been reinstated. An after-hours special event for ill, disadvantaged and disabled children. It’s a great event where the whole Zoo pulls together to create something special for everybody to enjoy.

Sand Zoo!
The lawn will be the site for a sand sculpture exhibition during July and August next year. This special exhibition will mark some of the Zoo’s famous animal residents through the power of sand. There will also be sand sculpting workshops for visitors during the run of the exhibition and half of the lawn will be turned into a ‘pop up beach’ for general play!

100 Years, 100 Prizes
22nd July 1913 saw Edinburgh Zoo open its doors to the public for the first time, and on this day 100 years later, as it is the official Centenary day Edinburgh Zoo will be marking this special moment by giving away 100 prizes throughout the day to some lucky people
ranging from keeper experiences gifts to food and drink.

Edinburgh Zoo is set in 82 acres of landscaped parkland and with a vibrant horticultural past, it’s no surprise that the talented gardens team will be hard at work creating two new rose gardens, one will feature classic varieties of roses, whilst the other will bed will boast modern and contemporary varieties – a colourful representation of the Zoo’s past and also more recent times, one dedicated to Thomas Gillespie, RZSS founder and the other to Frank Mears and Patrick Geddes: town planners who were responsible for the main design of the zoo.

There will also be a metal memory tree to be constructed by John Ramsay with metal leaves (wishes) that can be purchased by visitors. An English Oak will be planted later in the year.

The well-known floral clock, which is a feature of Princes Street Gardens will be getting the Zoo centenary treatment, with a special dedicated floral design which will feature the Edinburgh Zoo 100 years anniversary logo. The floral clock in Princes Street Garden is going to be dedicated to the zoo, with the 100 anniversary logo.

Discovery and Learning
To tie in with this special year, the Zoo’s ever popular and highly successful Summer School programme will be given a centenary theme. One particular event will see a ‘Next 100 Years’ special writing competition take place with schools, pupils will be asked to get on their creative thinking caps and put pen to paper in this unique celebratory competition.

A one of a kind stamp competition took place earlier this year, in which over 4,000 entries were received from school children all across Scotland, the project was supported by the Association of Scottish Philatelic Societies (ASPS) and the Scottish Philatelic Trade Association (SPTA). To mark 100 years of Edinburgh Zoo school children were offered the chance to design a centenary stamp to represent a century of the Zoo.

The four stamp design winners were 15 year old Leah MacDonald’s giant panda stamp, seven year old Cameron Gow’s tiger terrific stamp, 13 year old Sarah Whitelaw’s colourful crowned crane and Lucy Barton’s lion stamp. All of these winning designs have been made into a miniature stamp label sheet that is now on sale at the Edinburgh Zoo gift shop for £1 – all profits will go towards RZSS’ on going conservation projects, in the UK and further afield.
  • Lean McDonald aged 15 from Our Ladys High School, Motherwell
  • Sarah Whitelaw, aged 13, from Strathaven Academy Strathaven
  • Lucy Barton, aged 9, from Stromness Orkney
  • Cameron Gow, aged 7, from Glasgow Gaelic School, Glasgow

Visits are being arranged for two schools, Boroughmuir in Edinburgh and Strathallan in Perthshire, that were both founded in 1913.

Fundraising Dinner
A special centenary fundraising dinner is being planned for September / October time

Zoo Memories
Edinburgh Zoo is also hoping to collect fond memories from local people with ages ranging over the last 100 years. Using any old film footage, photos, memories that visitors of any age may have of their visit to the Zoo throughout the years. The Zoo is also looking for people to share their memories on camera that will be used to make special centenary videos, audio clips that will be used throughout all aspects of Edinburgh zoo.

To share a special memory of visiting Edinburgh Zoo at any point over the last 100 years, then please email your 'memory' to Sandie Robb, or send in to Sandie Robb, Senior Education Officer, Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS.

Please include your name, year of birth and contact telephone number or email. Please also state that you give permission for RZSS to print this memory and any images provided in any of RZSS publications and websites. Not all memories may be able to be published. The aim is to find a memory from 100 local people each born over the 100 years of the zoo. Much as we would like to, it may not be possible to include everyone. We hope that on reading the selected memories, it will bring back each visitors own memory and inspire themto visit in the next 100 years!

Thanks to the help of some of our volunteers, we are also scanning in old annual reviews and images with a view to putting then on line during 2013.

As well as these specific activities, our regular talks and events programmes will also be included as part of the centenary. We will of course be seeing the homecoming of the penguins early in the New Year, a welcome event to kick off the centenary and the exciting homecoming of one of Edinburgh’s most iconic animals.

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