Come along and stay with us when you go to see the Pandas
Edinburgh Zoo is one of the top tourist attractions in Scotland, vying with Edinburgh Castle and the Museum of Scotland for the largest number of visitors each year to an attraction with an entrance fee. The zoo is home to 1,000 animals from over 150 species and is also the headquarters of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. Covering an entire hillside in the Corstorphine area of Edinburgh, the Zoo has plenty of space to allow animals such as zebra and antelope - and humans - room to roam.
History Within four years of the formation of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in 1909 Edinburgh Zoo opened to the public. Unlike many glorified menageries of that time, the concept of an "open zoo" was adopted with as few bars as possible and large natural enclosures with moats and ditches where required to separate the animals from the visitors.
The zoo has always been at the forefront of conservation and animal husbandry and with justification sees itself as a "producer" of wildlife rather than a "consumer" and contributes to the stock of rare animals as well as those which are less endangered.
Edinburgh Zoo is constantly being developed and updated with new enclosures being created for the animals as well as educational facilities for both children and adults. In 1995 a "Darwin Maze" was created which incorporates a yew hedge maze on an evolutionary theme.
Shortly after Edinburgh Zoo opened, three king penguins arrived from a whaling expedition to the South Atlantic. They created a huge amount of interest as they were the first live penguins to be seen in the UK. Since then, the zoo has become world-famous for its penguins and it has had an outstanding success in breeding them.
In 1992, the zoo's spectacular new enclosure for its penguins was completed with space for three species to breed, a three metres deep pool with glass sides which allow visitors to see the penguins gracefully "fly" through the water at speeds up to 25mph.
Not to be missed is the zoo's famous "penguin parade" when a number of the birds leave the enclosure and follow the keepers around the lawns outside. Of course, they are rewarded with a plentiful supply of fish!
Giraffes are another success story at Edinburgh Zoo and the arrival of another youngster, 5/6 feet tall at birth usually results in an increased number of visitors at the giraffe enclosure to see it on its wobbly legs.
Edinburgh specialises in breeding a species of giraffe known as Rothschild's or Baringo giraffe. These have markings with a darker centre and sometimes two pairs of horns.
In some of the large fields on Corstorphine Hill, there are also zebra, deer, antelope, oryx, camels and other ruminants. These can sometimes be quite far from the pathways round the zoo so that telephoto lens can be useful there too!
Edinburgh Zoo has a collection of Siberian tigers rather than the more usual Bengal tigers. There are less than 500 of these magnificent animals in the wild (and about 1,000 in the world's zoos). Edinburgh has played its part in a breeding programme to try to increase the numbers.
The zoo also breeds Persian leopard, snow leopard and, of course, the king of the jungle, the lion.
There are lots of birds at Edinburgh zoo (quite apart from the native Scottish species which take advantage of some of the food for the birds and animals in the enclosures) including pheasants, peacocks, parrots, cockatoos, macaws, waterfowl, flamingos, pelican and ibis.
The zoo also has a large collection of owls, including the snowy owl (another breeding success), European eagle owls and McKinder's eagle owl which the handlers bring out for the visitors to admire. This illustrates very well the many ways in which Edinburgh Zoo tries to break down the barriers separating the animals from the visitors.
Lots of Other Species
Edinburgh Zoo has a large collection of primates such as chimpanzees, gorillas, marmosets, tamarins and lemurs. Then there's the polar bears, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, camels, kangaroos, wallabies, wolves and a delightful collection of otters.
In addition to the mammals and birds Edinburgh Zoo also exhibits a variety of reptiles, amphibians, tortoises, crocodiles and frogs.
As visitors walk into the zoo from the main entrance (with its large shop and orientation centre) they are confronted by a large elephant emerging from the shrubbery. But it hasn't escaped - it's a realistic fibre-glass model as the zoo does not have any real elephants. It was decided many years ago that they could not provide the space for the mixed group of elephants which this social animal requires. Once again, the zoo is showing its care and concern for its inhabitants.