Inspiring a lifelong love of wildlife for one-hundred years

We were the first “open zoo” in Europe to be easily accessible to the visiting public. ZSL was founded in 1826 with the aim of promoting worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, and, while London Zoo was already part of their work, there was a desire to expand the Charity’s wildlife conservation work to include an “open zoo” in the countryside.

Creating the Zoo

A derelict farm on the Dunstable Downs was purchased by ZSL in 1926 for £13,480 (12s 10d) and building work began immediately. Animals began arriving at Whipsnade in 1928, with pheasants, llama, wombats and skunks among the first to arrive.

When Whipsnade Park Zoo opened on 23 May 1931, it was an immediate success and welcomed tens of thousands of excited visitors in its opening week. The Zoo’s distinctive, chalk, hill figure of a white lion, which measures a gargantuan 147m from nose to tail, was completed in 1933. During the Second World War, the Whipsnade White Lion had to be camouflaged with green paint, turf and netting. The Zoo also acted as a refuge for animals evacuated from London Zoo during the war years.  

History of the Zoo

100 years at Whipsnade

The Zoo through the eyes of four generations of Zookeepers

Celebating the work of one family that over four generations, has dedicated the founding and running of Whipsnade Zoo.

6 November 2019

The Zoo during the Second World War

How the Zoo was impacted by the Second World War, which began just eight years after Whipsnade opened to the public in 1931.

Where it all began

The first year of the Zoo

It’s 1931 and Whipsnade Park, ZSL’s second zoo, has been open for three weeks.  A pair of pygmy hippos who arrive on 28 and 31 July are a favourite of visitors from the start, according to accounts.