Families and children watch the famous Penguin Parade at Edinburgh Zoo in the summer of 1962. The first parade happened by mistake when some penguins escaped their enclosure in 1950.
Families and children watch the famous Penguin Parade at Edinburgh Zoo in the summer of 1962. The first parade happened by mistake when some penguins escaped their enclosure in 1950.

Edinburgh Zoo: 25 pictures from the 1950s and 1960s show how much the attraction has changed

It is one of the Capital’s most popular attractions - pandas and giraffes are amongst the most recent additions to the magnificent menagerie of creatures - and it was just as beloved over half a century ago.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:26 am

Edinburgh Zoo was first opened to the public in 1913, when it was called the Scottish National Zoological Park, and since then has provided a fun and educational day out for millions of families from around the world.

It was the brainchild of Edinburgh lawyer Thomas Hailing Gillespie, who founded the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in 1909 which, in turn, purchased the Corstorphine Hill site from Edinburgh Town Council in 1913.

Gillespie modelled the zoo on Hamburg’s Tierpark Hagenbeck in Germany, which replaced the traditional steel cages with open enclosures that more resembled the animals’ natural habitat.

A visit by King George VI in 1948 led to the prefix ‘Royal’ being added to the society’s name and it remains the only zoo with a royal charter in the UK.

Some of the zoo’s most famous residents were added in January 1914 when three king penguins arrived, supplied by the Christian Salvesen whaling expedition which docked in Leith.

They were the the first penguins in the world to be shown outside the South Atlantic.

Another landmark moment with the flightless birds came were when the zoo became the first to hatch a king penguin in captivity in 1919 and then when the legendary penguin parade was created - accidentally - in 1950 after some of the birds escaped their enclosure.

Since then numerous animals have joined the Edinburgh Zoo family, while the institution has continued to fulfil its original aim of maintaining an active breeding programme while supporting biodiversity, conservation and sustainability initiatives.

Recent additions include a family of sloths, five male Baringo giraffes, a baby red panda and three endangered Przewalski's horses.

And the zoo made international headlines in 2011 when Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrived from China – becoming the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years and instantly becoming the zoo’s star attractions.

Here are 25 pictures to take you back to the zoo in the 1950s and 1960s.

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