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Zoological Society of London

Coordinates: 51°32′09″N 0°09′27″W / 51.5357°N 0.1575°W / 51.5357; -0.1575
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Zoological Society of London
Founded1826; 198 years ago (1826)
FoundersSir Stamford Raffles, Marquess of Lansdowne, Lord Auckland, Sir Humphry Davy, Robert Peel, Joseph Sabine, Nicholas Aylward Vigors and others
TypeNon-profit organisation
PurposeTo promote worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats; London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo, research in Institute of Zoology, field conservation
  • London, England
Coordinates51°32′09″N 0°09′27″W / 51.5357°N 0.1575°W / 51.5357; -0.1575

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. It was founded in 1826.[1] Since 1828, it has maintained London Zoo, and since 1931 Whipsnade Zoo.


Sir Joseph Banks' house was the initial meeting place for the Zoological Society
Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Main Building by John Belcher and John James Joass
Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Main Building, Entrance

On 29 November 1822, the birthday of John Ray, "the father of modern zoology", a meeting held in the Linnean Society in Soho Square led by Rev. William Kirby, resolved to form a "Zoological Club of the Linnean Society of London".[2] Between 1816 and 1826, discussions between Stamford Raffles, Humphry Davy, Joseph Banks and others led to the idea that London should have an establishment similar to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. It would house a zoological collection "which should interest and amuse the public."[3]

Plan of the Zoological Society of London (1829)

The society was founded in April 1826 by Sir Stamford Raffles, the Marquess of Lansdowne, Lord Auckland, Sir Humphry Davy, Robert Peel, Joseph Sabine, Nicholas Aylward Vigors along with various other nobility, clergy, and naturalists.[3][4] Raffles was the first chairman and president, but died after only a few months in office, in July 1826. He was succeeded by the Marquess of Lansdowne who supervised the building of the first animal houses, a parcel of land in Regent's Park having already been obtained from the Crown at the inaugural meeting. It received a royal charter from George IV on 27 March 1829.[3]

Punch illustration of a meeting of the zoologists

The purpose of the society was to create a collection of animals for study at leisure, an associated museum and library. In April 1828, the Zoological Gardens were opened to members. In 1831 William IV presented the Royal Menagerie to the Zoological Society, and in 1847 the public was admitted to aid funding, and Londoners soon christened the Zoological Gardens the "Zoo". London Zoo soon had the most extensive collection of animals in the world.

A History of the ZSL, written by Henry Scherren (FZS), was published in 1905.[3] The History was criticised as inadequately researched by Peter Chalmers Mitchell in 1929; both histories were labelled inaccurate by John Bastin in 1970.[5]

Former ZSL logo

As the twentieth century began, the need to maintain and research large animals in a more natural environment became clear. Peter Chalmers Mitchell (ZSL Secretary 1903–35) conceived the vision of a new park no more than 70 miles (110 km) away from London and thus accessible to the public, and at least 200 acres (0.81 km2) in extent. In 1926, profiting from the agricultural depression, the ideal place was found: Hall Farm, near Whipsnade village, was derelict, and held almost 600 acres (2.4 km2) on the Chiltern Hills. ZSL bought the farm in December 1926 for £13,480 12s 10d. In 1928 the first animals arrived at the new Whipsnade Park—two Amherst pheasants, a golden pheasant and five red jungle fowl. Others soon followed, including muntjac deer, llamas, wombats and skunks. In 1931 Whipsnade Park was opened to the public as the world's first open zoological park.

In 1960–61, Lord Zuckerman, then Secretary of ZSL, raised funds from two medical foundations to found laboratories as an Institute of Zoology where scientists would be employed by ZSL and undertake research.

The Society is a registered charity under English law.[6]

The Institute of Zoology


The Institute of Zoology is the scientific research division of the ZSL. It is a government-funded research institute, which specialises in scientific issues relevant to the conservation of species and their habitats. The Institute of Zoology focuses its research on five areas: evolutionary biology, genetics, ecology, reproductive biology and wildlife epidemiology. The Institute of Zoology was graded 4 in the 1997–2001 UK Research Assessment Exercise, and publishes reports annually. From the late 1980s the Institute of Zoology had been affiliated to the University of London. However, in 2000 this was replaced with a partnership with the University of Cambridge.

Zoos and publications


ZSL runs London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo and had planned to open an aquarium, Biota!. The society published the Zoological Record (ZR) from 1864 to 1980, when the ZR was transferred to BIOSIS. The Society has published the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, now called the Journal of Zoology, since 1830. Since 1998 it has also published Animal Conservation. Other publications include the International Zoo Yearbook and Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.



The society administers the following award programmes:[7]



Individuals can be elected Fellows of the Zoological Society of London and therefore granted the post-nominal letters FZS.

Honorary Fellows


The ZSL's Honorary Fellows include:[9]



The council is the governing body of the ZSL. There are 15 council members, led by the president and served by the secretary and treasurer. Council members are the trustees of the society and serve for up to five years at a time.[10]



The Presidency is a voluntary position, with the role of leading the ZSL Council. The Society's Presidents and their dates in office are:[11]



The post of secretary is honorary and under the society's constitution carries the responsibility for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the ZSL. The secretaries and their dates in office are:[12][13]

Coat of arms

Coat of arms of Zoological Society of London
Granted 10 February 1959 [14]
On a wreath Or and Sable, an osprey, wings extended, perched upon and grasping in talons a fish fesswise Proper.
Gules, a lion passant guardant Or, armed and langued Azure, holding in the dexter paw a torch Or, enflamed Proper, the flame irradiated also Or.
On either side a zebra Proper, collared Or.
'Curae Genus Omne Animantium'


  1. ^ "Zoological Society of London | Tethys". tethys.pnnl.gov. Retrieved 16 May 2024.
  2. ^ "Communicating Nature Since 1788". The Linnean Society. Retrieved 16 May 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d Scherren, Henry (1905). The Zoological Society of London. Cassell & Co.
  4. ^ "Zoological Society". The Times. No. 12956. London. 2 May 1826. col C, p. 3.
  5. ^ John Bastin (1970). "The first prospectus of the Zoological Society of London: new light on the Society's origins". Archives of Natural History. 5 (5): 369–388. doi:10.3366/jsbnh.1970.5.5.369.
  6. ^ "Zoological Society of London, registered charity no. 208728". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  7. ^ "ZSL scientific awards". Archived from the original on 11 December 2005. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  8. ^ "1961 ff". Archived from the original on 6 December 2023. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  9. ^ "The Zoological Society of London Honorary Fellows" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  10. ^ "Current ZSL Council Members". Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2009.
  11. ^ New president for ZSL promises public a gateway into conservation Archived 14 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine ZSL press release announcing the new president in 2004
  12. ^ The Zoological Society of London. Charter and Byelaws. 1995.
  13. ^ Denton, Peter (12 May 1994). "Obituary: Sir Barry Cross". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  14. ^ "Zoological Society of London". Heraldry of the World. Archived from the original on 20 November 2022. Retrieved 25 September 2022.