Above: RZSS founder Thomas Gillespie, pictured at Edinburgh Zoo in 1959.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) was founded in 1909 by Edinburgh lawyer Thomas Gillespie. A visionary and nature enthusiast, in just four years Thomas garnered sufficient support and funding to enable RZSS to buy an 85 acre site to the west of Edinburgh, with help from the City of Edinburgh Council.
Edinburgh Zoo was opened to the public on 22 July 1913 and was incorporated by Royal Charter later that year. However it was only in 1948, following a visit by HRH King George VI, that the Society was granted the privilege of adding the prefix 'Royal' to its name. It remains one of only a few zoos with a Royal Charter in the United Kingdom. Today, Edinburgh Zoo is home to over 2,500 amazing animals.
In 1986 Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore joined the RZSS family. The park is now home to 200 amazing animals, including native Scottish species as well as incredible animals from the world's mountains and tundra regions.
Our 2030 strategy makes three pledges to help create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved - find out more.
Key dates from our history:
RZSS is founded by Edinburgh lawyer Thomas Gillespie
Edinburgh Zoo is opened to the public on 22 July 1913
A king penguin chick hatches at Edinburgh Zoo, the first ever to hatch in captivity
Wojtek arrives at Edinburgh Zoo. Also known as the Soldier Bear, Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear that lived a particularly extraordinary life as part of the 22nd Company Polish Army Service and Corps (Artillery) troops before retiring to Edinburgh Zoo after the war
Following a visit by HRH King George VI, the Society was granted the privilege of adding the prefix 'Royal' to our name
The world famous Penguin Parade began when a gate was left open and a gentoo penguin escaped. The keeper decided to see what would happen and it was followed by other penguins to the front of the Zoo. The parade has continued voluntarily to this day
The former cafeteria and souvenir shop was converted to an Education Centre to create awareness in the community of wildlife and environmental matters and was formally opened in 1976. Since then, Discovery and Learning at the Zoo has gone from strength to strength. The award winning education programme has reached over 1 million pupils both onsite and through outreach programmes
RZSS acquires Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig
RZSS starts supporting the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda
Sir Nils Olav, a king penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, is Knighted by the Norwegian Guard
RZSS opens the WildGenes laboratory
Giant pandas, Yang Guang and Tian Tian, arrived in Edinburgh
The UK's first polar bear cub for 25 years emerges from his den at Highland Wildlife Park
We launched a new partnership project, led by RZSS, dedicated to restoring Scottish wildcat populations - Saving Wildcats.
Our new 2030 strategy was launched with three new pledges to help create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved