We’re ZSL (Zoological Society of London), an international conservation charity, and our vision is a world where wildlife thrives. We’re working every day to achieve this, through our science, our field conservation around the world and engaging millions of people through our two Zoos, ZSL London and ZSL Whipsnade Zoos.
In 2026 ZSL will be 200 years old, marking two centuries of discovery, pioneering, inspiring and delighting through science, conservation and our two Zoos. However, the challenges facing wildlife are increasing: the rate of extinction is accelerating through habitat loss, disease, the illegal wildlife trade, pollution and other human effects. ZSL needs to act now to address these challenges.
We have developed our strategy – ZSL 200 – to help us better tackle the issues facing wildlife today and adapt to those around the corner. It will focus our efforts and operations, with science informing work in the field and using the Zoos as a focus to drive engagement.
To tackle the threat to wild animals and help people achieve this positive change, we will:
- Inspire future generations through amazing experiences with animals, giving them a lifelong connection to wildlife and an understanding of the part that they can play.
- Inform the world about the challenges facing wildlife and the ways we all can address these, based on our scientific research, experience and expertise.
- Empower communities, leaders and influencers by giving them methods, evidence and tools to enable people and wildlife to thrive together.
ince Sir Stamford Raffles founded ZSL in 1826, there have been many achievements at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as well as in our conservation work in the wild.
- The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
- London Zoo opened to Fellows of the Society, and to the public with a written ‘order’ from a Fellow and payment of 1 shilling.
- Lady Raffles elected first woman Fellow.
- The Zoological Society of London granted a Royal Charter by King George IV.
- Scientific Meetings started. First issue of the Proceedings of the Zoological Society published.
- Royal animal collection from the Tower of London presented to ZSL.
- Chimpanzee exhibited at London Zoo for the first time.
- Charles Darwin became a Fellow of ZSL.
- Public admitted to London Zoo without an ‘order’ from a Fellow.
- World’s first Reptile House opened at London Zoo.
- Arrival of the hippopotamus Obaysch – the first living hippo to be seen in Europe since Roman times.
- First ever public Aquarium opened at London Zoo.
- Jumbo, the first African elephant seen alive in England, received from Paris.
- World’s first Insect House opened at London Zoo.
- Winnie the bear deposited at London Zoo. She was the inspiration for ‘Winnie-the-pooh’.
- Evelyn Cheesman appointed Assistant Curator of Insects, the first woman in a curatorial post at ZSL.
- As the twentieth century dawned the need to keep and study large animals in more natural surroundings became apparent. Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell (ZSL Secretary 1903-35) envisaged a new park no more than 70 miles from London, over 200 acres in size and easily accessible to the visiting public. In 1926 an ideal site was found, derelict Hall Farm, near Whipsnade village, nearly 600 acres on the Chiltern Downs. ZSL purchased the farm in December 1926 for £13,480 12s 10d.
- The first animals arrived at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park – two Amherst pheasants, a golden pheasant and five red jungle fowl. Others soon followed including muntjac, llama, wombats and skunks.
- Whipsnade Wild Animal Park opened – the world’s first open zoological park.
- Children’s Zoo opened at London Zoo.
- Start of Second World War. The Giant pandas, elephants and rhinos were sent to Whipsnade. London Zoo closed briefly from 3-9 September, but remained open throughout the rest of the War.
- Guy the gorilla arrived at London Zoo.
1960 and 1961
- The Institute of Zoology is established. Lord Zuckerman, then Secretary of ZSL, raised funds from two medical foundations to found laboratories where scientists would be employed by ZSL and undertake research.
- ‘Caroline’ an Arabian oryx is lent to the world herd in Phoenix, Arizona, the first international co-operative breeding programme.
- Nuffield Institute opened by Prince Philip.
- Snowdon Aviary (designed by Lord Snowdon) opened.
- Casson Elephant House opened.
- Goldie the golden eagle escapes twice, causing much excitement and publicity.
- Clore Pavilion for Small Mammals opened by the Queen and Prince Philip.
- Pipaluk the polar bear born.
- Whipsnade bred the first cheetahs born in Europe.
- Visitors no longer allowed to feed the animals.
- Herd of white rhinos brought to Whipsnade, as a result of an agreement with the Natal Parks Board, who had raised white rhino from near extinction. They thought it would help the conservation effort if there were breeding groups outside Africa as well.
- Emperor of Japan visited Regent’s Park and was made an Honorary Fellow.
- Sobell Pavilion for Apes and Monkeys opened by Prince Philip.
- Arrival of giant pandas Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia.
- New Lion Terraces opened by the Queen.
- Whipsnade celebrated its 50th anniversary.
- ZSL co-ordinates the release of Pere David’s deer in Da Feng, China. The release includes deer bred at Whipsnade.
- The Queen and Prince Philip visited the Zoo. Prince William visited the Insect House, followed by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
- ZSL Council decided to close London Zoo as it was losing money. The Emir of Kuwait then donated one million pounds, prompting the Zoo to remain open.
- At Whipsnade the ‘Africa’ and ‘Passage through Asia’ exhibits proved successful.
- New Royal Charter granted to ZSL by the Privy Council.
- Ambika Paul Children’s Zoo built using a one million pound donation from Dr Swarj Paul in memory of his daughter.
- One hundred sand gazelles released in to the Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia.
- His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh opened Whipsnade’s new Elephant House.
- Four thousand British field crickets were released into southern England; the biggest ever of a captive bred animal.
- Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, officially opened the Millennium Conservation Centre, which houses BUGS, the biodiversity exhibition.
- ZSL launched its first website.
- ZSL celebrated 175 year and Whipsnade Zoo celebrated 80 year anniversaries.
- Komodo Island of Dragons enclosure opened by Sir David Attenborough.
- Meet the Monkeys walkthrough exhibit for the squirrel monkeys opened.
- African Bird Safari walkthrough opened.
- ZSL assisted in rescuing approximately 950 exotic fish and coral illegally imported from Indonesia seized at Heathrow.
- Gorilla Kingdom opened at ZSL London Zoo.
- EDGE of Existence programme launched, concentrating on world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species.
- Blackburn Pavilion opened in March, ZSL London Zoo.
- Outback exhibit opened August, ZSL London Zoo.
- Opening of Rhinos of Nepal, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
- Animal Adventure opened with red pandas, aardvarks, and prairie dogs on display.
- Giants of the Galapagos opened.
- Once thought extinct, the Horton Plains slender loris was found in Sri Lanka by ZSL, with first ever photos.
- Three part ITV documentary ‘The Zoo’ was aired on prime time television.
- Penguin Beach opened at ZSL London Zoo – England’s biggest penguin pool.
- Opening of Tiger Territory, a 2,500sqm (27,000sqft) enclosure for tigers that replicates their natural Indonesian habitat.
- Thug and Nicky, two pygmy hippos, moved into a new custom built enclosure, complete with solar panels to power their own indoor heated pools.
- Two brand new enclosures opened at ZSL London Zoo – In With The Lemurs and In With The Spiders, Europe’s only walk through spider enclosure.
- ZSL Whipsnade Zoo opened its brand new Butterfly House and a brand new Visitor Centre
- ZSL London Zoo opens Land of the Lions – its biggest and most breathtaking experience ever.
- African Hunting Dogs exhibit was opened at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
- The Centre for Elephant Care opened at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
- Jimmy and Yoda move into the new Gibbons enclosure at ZSL London Zoo.
What are your opening times?
For ZSL London Zoo - Our opening times vary throughout the year For ZSL Whipsnade Zoo - Our opening times vary throughout the year
How much are tickets to the Zoos?
Our ticket prices vary at each Zoo and throughout the year, you can see the prices on our booking page.
Can I buy tickets when I arrive?
No, we ask that you book your tickets in advance of your visit to help us manage numbers, for the time being.
I have tickets booked for certain day – can I change the date we use them?
Tickets are non-refundable, non-exchangeable as per our T's & C’s so pre-booked tickets are only valid on the specified date.
I am bringing children with me who are under three. Do I need to pay for them?
Children under the age of 3 years are entitled to free entry to both of our Zoos. Please ensure you book a ticket for them when you book yours so that we know how many visitors to expect.
I have a London Pass/Go City Explorer Pass – can I get in free? (ZSL London Zoo only)
London Pass/Go City Explorer Pass holders simply need to arrive at the Zoo and present their pass to ZSL Admissions staff.
How do I use National Rail’s 241 offer? (ZSL London Zoo only)
National Rail’s 241 offer permits 1 person free of charge into London Zoo (minimum of 2 visitors required). This offer requires 2 valid national rail tickets and the cheapest, if applicable, of the two visitors goes free. Visitors must pre-book their 241 entry tickets, here.
How do I redeem my BuyAGift voucher?
We are temporarily not accepting BuyAGift vouchers.
How do I redeem my Leisure Voucher?
This promotion is temporarily suspended.
How can I use my Tesco Clubcard points? Do you still accept Tesco paper vouchers?
We are no longer participating in this promotion
Can I use my Blue Peter badge to obtain free entry? What do I need to show for this?
We are now accepting Blue Peter badges again. A child, aged 6 - 15 years, who produces a valid Blue Peter badge card at the gate will be given free entry when accompanied by a full paying adult. One full paying adult will be required for each qualifying child and the adult ticket must be purchased upon arrival at the Zoo.
Can I store my luggage when I visit?
Find out more about our self-service lockers at ZSL London Zoo We do not currently have self-service lockers for hire at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
Can you hire wheelchairs?
Yes, wheelchairs are available for hire from both ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on a first come, first served, basis. Alternatively, you call ahead and reserve one of our wheelchairs in advance via 0344 225 1826. You’ll need to pay a £25 deposit when hiring a wheelchair, but this will be refunded after the wheelchair is returned to Zoo staff undamaged. Alternatively, a mobility scooter is available on a first come, first served basis for a charge of £20 plus a refundable deposit of £30.
Can you hire pushchairs?
At both of our Zoos, pushchairs are available to hire from the gift shop. The single buggies are £10 to hire and we take a £15 refundable deposit. The double buggies are £15 to hire and we take a £15 refundable deposit.
Can you hire trikes?
At ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Micro Trikes are available to hire for toddlers from the gift shop for just £10 (£15 refundable deposit applies). It isn't currently possible to hire trikes at ZSL London Zoo.
Do you offer a discount for students?
If you are a UK or international student then you will be entitled to our concession rate ticket, please remember to bring any valid ID with you that shows you are a student, with your pre-booked ticket on arrival, to guarantee entry.
I have a disability. What tickets do I buy?
Adult and child guests who are registered disabled are entitled to our disabled adult or child ticket rates. An essential carer enters free with each ticket. To collect the essential carer ticket, please make sure you bring along your supporting documents that shows you require a carer as well as a copy of your ticket that you have purchased in advance. These may include the following: Disability Allowance Letter PIP letter Freedom pass Any other appropriate supporting documentation as issued by your local authority
Can I bring a guide dog into the Zoo?
Assistance dogs are not permitted at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. At ZSL London Zoo, assistance dogs are permitted within certain criteria. Please see London Zoo's accessibility page for more information.
Do you do discounts for NHS and military staff?
Unfortunately we do not currently offer any military or NHS discount.
Are there accessible facilities available at your Zoos?
We work hard to ensure both ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are accessible for all visitors. Please see more information about accessibility at ZSL London Zoo here, and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo here.
The tickets say my name on, can anyone use them?
This will not affect entry for the person using the ticket. The name of the purchaser will always be on the ticket when processed; however this can be different to the person using the ticket as long as they have it with them on arrival. If you are a member and you have pre-booked a slot, you are not able to transfer this ticket to anyone else.
Do I need to print my tickets?
As long as you have purchased your tickets directly from ZSL via our website or phone line, you do not need to print your tickets; they will be accepted when displayed on smart devices such as phones or tablets. Simply download your tickets and present the relevant barcodes to a member of our admissions team on arrival. We are not currently accepting tickets purchased from third-party companies.
Can I buy tickets and Experiences as a gift? Do I receive anything in the post?
We do offer gift vouchers for our experiences; when these are purchased you will receive a voucher in the post, themed to fit with the experience. The vouchers are valid for 1 year from the date of purchase during which time it will need to have been booked and redeemed. We also offer flexi ticket vouchers which are open-ended tickets valid for a single visit within 1 year. To redeem a flexi voucher, you will need to go through the normal ticket booking process and use your flexi voucher code at checkout instead of paying. Full instructions are issued when you buy a flexi ticket voucher.
Is ZSL part of Merlin?
ZSL is not under the Merlin Group; therefore we do not accept Merlin passes. ZSL is a conservation charity and so for those wishing to support us whilst enjoying the benefit of entry to both our Zoos, we do offer annual memberships. For more information, please visit our membership page.
Where can I buy food at the Zoo?
We have a variety of pop-up outdoor food outlets at both London and Whipsnade that offer a selection of food options
Can you bring a picnic into the Zoo?
You are welcome to bring your own picnics and we provide picnic tables around both of our sites for you to use.
Where can I park my car?
ZSL London Zoo Parking is available in the Zoo’s Gloucester Slips car park at a cost of £14.50, payable on the day. We are outside the London Congestion Charging Zone. Parking is also available on Outer Circle just by the zoo and at car parks in the local area. Please see parking information for more details. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has a large, free car park just outside the zoo.
Do your car parks have height restrictions?
No, neither the car park at ZSL London Zoo or ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have height restrictions.
When do the car parks open/close?
The car park at ZSL London Zoo is open from 9am while, the car park at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is open from 8am, with each car park closing roughly an hour after the Zoo closes.
Are all animals on show?
Your great day out is of paramount importance to us. However, so is the welfare of our animals and on occasions, we may have some important care that we need to do for our animals, that requires them to remain off show.
Are any of the enclosures closed in the winter months?
Some of our animals do like to stay indoors when it is a bit colder or wet outside and as such, we have indoor viewing areas for most of our enclosures.
How do I report lost property?
To report a lost item at ZSL London Zoo, please fill out our lost property log, and one of the team will get back to you if it's been found. To report a lost item at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, please fill out our lost property log, and one of the team will get back to you if it’s been found.
What is ZSL?
ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is an international conservation charity. Our vision is a world where wildlife thrives and we're working every day to achieve this. From investigating the health threats facing animals, to helping people and wildlife live alongside each other, we are committed to bringing wildlife back from the brink of extinction. Through the work of our pioneering scientists, our dedicated conservationists and our unrivalled animal experts in our two zoos, we guide and enable others in the UK and all across the world. Inspiring, informing, empowering - working for wildlife.