The Edinburgh Zoo was formerly known as the Scottish National Zoological Park. The zoo was
founded by Thomas Gillespie an Edinburgh lawyer and opened to the public in 22 July 1913.
Thomas not only convinced the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to open the zoo but he
also garnered for funding to purchase the 85 acre land where the zoo is situated.
The zoo was later incorporated by royal charter the following year and it remains the only zoo in
the United Kingdom with a royal charter. The society was allowed to add the prefix royal in 1948
by HRH King George VI after his visit to the zoo.
The zoo was designed differently that many other zoos in the United Kingdom at the time. Most
zoos had adopted the use of cages and bars to separate the animals from people. However,
Gillespie had an open zoo design in mind where the animals would be placed in large
enclosures with moats and ditches to separate the animals from the people.
This design was inspired by the zoo at Hamburg that was designed by Carl Hagenbeck. Over
the years the zoo has won awards for having natural and stimulating habitats for the animals
due to the nature of the enclosures.
The zoo is not only home to many types of animals, it is also home to some of the most iconic
and popular animals in the United Kingdom and maybe even in the world. One of those animals
is Wojtek the bear. Wojtek is also known as the soldier bear because he helped the army win in
the World War II.
Wojtek was a fully enlisted honorary soldier of the 22 company polish army service and Corps
artillery division. He was enlisted in 1943. He helped the troops during the battle of Monte
Cassino where he carried boxes of 25 pounds artillery shells under heavy gunfire. He didn't
drop even one single box. Wojtek was the official mascot of the unit and a very popular figure
among the troops.
The zoo is also known to be home to a knighted penguin. The penguin known as Sir Nils Olav
was knighted under the instruction of the king of Norway, King Harald V in 2008. Sir Nil Olav is
the official mascot to the royal Norwegian Guard. The penguins at the zoo were introduced in
1913 and were the first penguins to be seen anywhere but the South Atlantic.
The zoo is also home to other animals including; Banteng, Barbary Macaque, lions, different
types of fishes, African hunting dogs, different types of birds, giraffes, zebras, one horned
rhinoceroses, baboons, giant pandas, monkeys, ducks, spiders, snakes, southern pudu, spotted
dears, pigeons, vultures, chameleons, and so many other species of animals.
Besides just seeing the animals, visitors to the Edinburgh Zoo are treated to different attractions
at the site. The main attractions at the zoo are; Giant Panda exhibit – see the only two giant
pandas in the UK. Penguins rock – visit the largest penguin pool in Europe and enjoy the
Brilliant birds- enjoy exotic species of birds from all over the world in the aviary. Living Links –
visit the field station and research center on primates. Other attractions at the zoo are; wee
beasties, wallaby outback, Edinburgh Zoo gardens, koala territory and Budongo trail.