A travel blogger friend asked me if I thought she should visit London Zoo on her trip to the UK. The short answer was yes, it’s awesome, but the long answer takes a bit more explaining. I’m an animal nut and a scientist, my degree is in zoology and I adore zoos. When the kids were little we practically lived at London Zoo, every weekend, all year round. I get very fed up with zoo-bashers, people who think zoos are there to entertain heartless humans lacking in compassion for caged wild creatures. That’s not the case, it hasn’t been for a long time now. What you will find at ZSL London zoo is a million miles from the animals-as -entertainment facilities that I vaguely remember from early childhood.
Here are my best reasons to visit London zoo. I really think you should.
Reasons to Visit London Zoo
ZSL, the Zoological Society of London, was founded in 1826 by Sir Stamford Raffles. London Zoo opened in 1827 and was an architectural masterpiece. Many of those original buildings remain, now repurposed. The ZSL London Zoo site contains two Grade I and eight Grade II listed buildings, modern additions to the zoo are similarly magnificent. You can read more about the architectural treasures of ZSL London Zoo here
Diversity of Animals
There are almost 17,000 creatures at the zoo representing over 700 species, all beautifully cared for and displayed to maximise our enjoyment and learning whilst maintaining a natural and enriching environment for the residents.
I have two sons, one loves mammals and goes all gooey over meerkats, the other thinks arthropods, arachnids particularly, are beautiful. Both were more than happy at ZSL London Zoo.
Getting Close to the Animals
London is one of the best zoos I know for getting close to the animals. There are no bars or cages in the Rainforest Wild exhibit, the walk through Meet the Monkeys enclosure, the new lemur walk-through, nor in several bird enclosures. This gorgeous tamandua was going for a wander yesterday, plenty of staff were there to make sure the animals weren’t hurt of distressed in any way.
If you are totally insane there is even a walk-through spider enclosure. No thanks!
London also has ways of not just getting you close to the animals, but making you feel what it’s like to BE an animal. The kid-sized meerkat tunnels are fantastic.
The keeper for a day programme is high on our must-do list and I’ve just discovered that Whipsnade offers you the chance to spend a night with the rhinos at its Lookout Lodge. Something else to investigate!
Conservation of animals and their habitats is the driving force behind ZSL’s work. They run conservation projects in over 50 countries worldwide and act as an advisory body in conservation issues. This is what ZSL is all about.
Your admission fee helps fund these projects and you will see conservation in action at the zoo.
Yesterday we saw three baby Sumatran tigers. There are only 300 left in the wild. The gorgeous furry creatures get all the attention but the less glamorous species are also fully represented.
ZSL is Actually Two Zoos
ZSL has the London Zoo, Regent’s Park, site and Whipsnade Zoo, the UK’s biggest zoo just north of London. The bigger animals are out at Whipsnade these days, they have an amazing view of the Chiltern Hills and open grassy enclosures. Whipsnade is well worth a visit.
ZSL is a Charity
The zoo and its work deserves your support, by visiting you are helping to fund international animal and habitat conservation. You can donate to ZSL here.
Amazing Staff to Answer Your Questions
My kids are always bursting with questions, it’s really easy to find a member of staff to talk to, keepers and volunteers are everywhere and are happy to give you their time.
Thank you for answering the boys’ questions yesterday, particularly the young woman feeding the macaques. D wanted to know if they were apes or tail-less monkeys, she got one to turn around and show him his tail stump. Thanks too to the volunteer who chatted to us about Sumatran tigers with such enthusiasm and obvious love for animals. You rock!
The ZSL London Zoo site is dotted with incredible and imaginative play facilities for children of all ages. That sounds clichéd, but tiny tots will enjoy the adventure play areas and water play fountains while big kids can take on more challenging play installations.
Education is, of course, part of conservation, but for those of us on a mission to give our children the best education the world can offer, this is it, it doesn’t get much better. The zoo can offer your kids so much learning that you need to go many, many times to take it all in, this place is just bursting with learning opportunities.
Are You Hooked? Want to Find out More?
I own these two books and I love them with a passion, they are seriously good books that I wanted to share.
The Tower Menagerie This has little to do with the zoo, it’s about the 600 year history of exotic animals kept at the Tower of London. Did you know they once had a polar bear tethered on the banks of the Thames? You can find this book here.
London Zoo From Old Photographs The buildings, the famous animals, the keepers and the way the zoo has changed over the years. London Zoo from Old Photographs 1852-1914 can be hard to get. It and other books on the zoo are on this page.
We have a post about various hotels, hostels and apartments we have used in London recently ( several years ago now) for ultra-budget short family stays, it gives you an idea of what to expect at this price point. London is expensive, as is the zoo, but thankfully there are heaps of free things to do in London so you can save elsewhere.
We have visited many zoos all over the world ( Singapore, Taronga, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and more), some are good, some are bad. We tend not to visit those we expect to be inhumane. London remains our favourite and , in our opinion, the best. World Travel Family visited ZSL London Zoo as guests on this occasion, but all opinions are 100% our own. I’ve loved London Zoo since I was a child and been a member of ZSL for many years. Back to our main London Family Travel Blog page. Back to our main UK Travel Blog page.