London, England, United Kingdom
The Zoological Society of London was formed in 1826, and is an organization that includes The London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo, as well as department handling conservation endeavors worldwide. The Whipsnade Zoo opened in 1931 and is a huge facility of more than 600 acres. It is home to over 6000 animals of approximately 227 species. The park is so large that guests are allowed to drive their own vehicle into the park and drive from one enclosure to the next. There is also a zoo bus, and train.
The first animals featured at the zoo arrived in 1928, and included a few species of pheasants and other birds, wombats, llama, and skunks. Within a short time, the zoo acquired animals from a traveling menagerie that was struggling. The Whipsnade Zoo also served as a sanctuary for animals evacuated from the London Zoo during World War II. The collection of animals in the present day doesn’t include as many species as many zoos, but that actually translates to more space for many of the animals and also a more in-depth focus on the particular needs of species. With a strict commitment to conservation and the captive breeding of endangered species, the zoo also has larger than typical groups of individual species. Beginning in the 1950’s with the birth of two species of endangered rhinos, the zoo was somewhat ahead of the concept of the need for captive breeding that started to become the norm in the 1960’s.
Asian Elephants are highly endangered in the wild and their numbers hover around 1500. The zoo is home to nine Asian elephants, including two youngsters, Donna born in 2009, and George in 2010. The Zoological Society of London is actively involved in preserving the wild cousins of their elephants through education and protection in Thailand. The herd has a seven acre enclosure complete with three pools, mud wallows, and posts to scratch their backs. In addition to the large enclosure, the herd is taken on daily walks around the large expanse of park. With babies holding onto their Mama’s tails, the herd is accompanied by several keepers and the parade is quite a sight to see.
Greater one horned or Indian Rhinos also share the endangered status of the Asian Elephants. At Whipsnade, the Indian Rhinos are housed in the first “green exhibit” of its kind, made from recycled materials and utilizing natural light sources and other sustainable building designs. The rhinos in this exhibit have indoor heated pools, and the glass windows outside the enclosure makes it easy for guest to get up close to these unique creatures. The chimpanzees also have an indoor/outdoor enclosure, both complete with gymnasiums, sleeping hammocks, and foraging logs with are close to the glass viewing areas.
Cheetah Rock is one of the newest and most astounding exhibits at the zoo, and can house up to nine cheetahs at a time. The spaces within the enclosure made of rocks although the cheetahs to climb up and have a great view of other African animals close by. In addition to the enrichment activities provided to the cheetahs, this visual stimulation also keep the cheetahs engaged. The fastest land animal, the cheetah is another species very threatened due to habitat loss and poaching. Conservation of these great cats is a major focus for the zoo, and guests can learn more through the keeper talks offered daily. Guests can also experience an interactive feeding time with adorable cheetah cubs, but scheduling is varied.
Other interactive talks and feeding times offered include animals like the Rock Hopper penguins, Amur Tigers, and Ostrich. Encounters will also undoubtedly happen with many of the free-roaming residents of the zoo, including Indian Peafowl, Prairie Marmots, Chinese Water Deer and wallabies. There is also a walk through exhibit with Lemurs, native only to Madagascar. Another exhibit not to miss include Wild Wild Whipsnade, a recreation of what native animals used to roam Europe, complete with moose, European Bison, Grey wolves, and lynx. And the Lions of the Serengeti exhibit is home to seven lions, including 4 cubs born at the zoo in 2006.