Sunday, 6 December 2015

Edinburgh Zoo

. . . Is it worth visiting?

The answer to that question is a resounding Yes - it is!

As someone who has visited Edinburgh zoo on many occasions with (and without) children and latterly with grandchildren I can highly recommend it

Leaving aside for now the moral arguments on whether the concept of zoos is good or bad Edinburgh Zoo, in Scotland's capital city, is an excellent day out for families and wildlife enthusiasts of all ages.

Owned and run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and situated in Corstorphine Road (see on map), one of Edinburgh's busiest roads, Scotland's biggest zoo is easy to find even for those who are not familiar with the city.

The entrance to Edinburgh Zoo
Photograph by Thomas Nugent/Geograph UK: CC-BY-SA 2.0
So let's take a look at some of the highlights of Scotland's most popular pay to visit attraction.

The pandas

The most famous residents of Edinburgh Zoo are, of course, the pair of giant pandas currently residing in luxury in a purpose-built enclosure. ''Borrowed'' (rented actually!) from China Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine) are the UK's only giant pandas and came to Edinburgh at the beginning of December 2011 as part of an international breeding program organised by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Tian Tian the female panda at Edinburgh Zoo
Photograph by The Land/Wikimedia CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported
Unfortunately, Edinburgh Zoo hasn't had any success in breeding them so far.

There have been a couple of false alarms when the female (Tian Tian) showed signs of being pregnant (including two attempts at artificial insemination) but the results have been disappointing and the zoo still awaits the patter of tiny panda feet!

The pandas are so popular that a system of ''appointments'' has been introduced to view them! The waiting list can be quite long at times so advanced booking is highly recommended.

The penguins

Another long-time favourite at the zoo is the ''Penguin Parade'' when the zoo's collection of king, rockhopper and gentoo penguins leave their enclosure and take a stroll around the zoo grounds accompanied by their keepers.

This parade is entirely voluntary on the part of the penguins. They are not encouraged in any way and sometimes the parade just doesn't happen because the penguins aren't in the mood!

Again, this is a popular attraction and although booking isn't necessary it is best to claim your place early to ensure a good viewing position along the route of the parade - if it happens, that is!

The penguin parade
Photograph by Lisa Jarvis/Geograph UK CC-BY-SA 2.0 Unported

Highly recommended . . .

. . .  but only if you have no fear of creepy crawly things!
Giant African land snail
By Schneckenmama/Wikimedia CC-BY SA 2.0 Germany
This is a Giant African land snail and it is one of a host of slimy, creepy and crawly creatures you can have a close encounter with at Edinburgh Zoo.

Creepy Creatures like the hissing cockroach (yes, it really will hiss at you!) can be found at the Budongo Trail Lecture Theatre where short talks on all kinds of invertebrates take place each day.

Admission is included with the zoo entry fee but places are strictly limited so, once again, get there early. The Budongo Lecture Theatre is also the venue for several other talks on various residents of the zoo - you pays your money and you takes your choice!

Interesting bits

As well as the giant pandas the zoo has the UK's only group of koala bears and in 2013 the first and so far the only koala baby born in the UK was born there. Edinburgh Zoo is the largest zoo in Scotland and is world-renowned for its conservation and breeding programmes including those involving the African Wild Dog, the Budongo Chimpanzee, the Bali Starling and many others.

The zoo has a Full Day Keeper Experience available where you can shadow one of the animal keepers for a full day (or a half day) and find out first hand what the life of a zoo keeper is all about.

There is also a series of webcams in strategic enclosures enabling anyone anywhere in the world to see what selected species of animals are doing at any time of the day. If you're interested then go take a look:




Please note that these are LIVE daylight webcams and depending on where you are in the world and which time zone you are in you might not see anything when you tune in - if so then tune in again at a different time.

Except for this one: The webcam in the panda enclosure not only operates during daylight hours but it also has an infra-red mode so that the pandas are visible even in complete darkness. Ever wondered what giant pandas get up to at night? Well, now's your chance to find out by tuning in to the 24-hour panda camera:


For further information on Edinburgh Zoo visit the zoo's website

This might interest you

Right next door to Edinburgh Zoo is a Holiday Inn and if you want to combine a visit to Edinburgh with a trip to the zoo then this particular Holiday Inn may have the answer.

The Holiday Inn next to Edinburgh Zoo
Photograph by Thomas Nugeny/Geograph UK CC-BY-SA 2.0
It offers a ''Panda Package'' which includes both admission to the zoo and admission to the panda enclosure. If this would suit you then go take a look.

My conclusion

Despite all that's said about how zoos are ''prisons for wildlife'' I believe that the best zoos (such as Edinburgh Zoo) are doing wonderful work in the field of conservation of endangered species.with the various captive breeding programmes they are involved in.

Yes, I know that it could be argued that, in the past, zoos (and private collectors) were largely responsible for the decline in many species but those days are behind us and the best hope for endangered species like the snow leopard, the Scottish wildcat and the Siberian tiger and many others lies with the efforts of responsible zoos and wildlife parks around the world in breeding and maintaining wild populations.

Zoos also give many people the opportunity to see and interact with many creatures they would otherwise only get to read about in books and to get involved with conservation on a personal level. All things considered zoos do more good than they do harm.


  1. I would love to visit that zoo. I do enjoy going to different zoos. I like the idea of the inn being right beside the zoo. I wish there would of been one at the Columbus zoo my family traveled to this past summer.

    1. That Holiday Inn could be handy for many people!

  2. So many wonderful places to see and experience! Even though it's unlikely I will ever leave the shores of the U.S., I certainly enjoy being able to experience other places vicariously.

    1. I particularly like the webcams even though there are pretty boring much of the time but there is the occasional exciting moment - like when Yang Guang (the male) rolled out of his bed!

    2. I had a look at the Panda cam and one of the pandas is in bed but it looks as if he or she has chosen a manger in which to sleep - Christmas Panda?

  3. I know from your photos and your description I would love this zoo. I'll have to check out the links when I'm not so busy.