3rd October 1876

Edinburgh Zoo founder Thomas Gillespie is born

Thomas Gillespie founded the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and established Edinburgh Zoo. He later found fame as a presenter on the BBC’s Children’s Hour radio programme.

Although a lawyer by training, he was instrumental in raising the £17,000 required to purchase the 85-acre site on which the zoo was created, with some help from the city council.

A better Zoo

His wasn’t the first zoo in Edinburgh but, having seen its predecessor fail after many of the animals got sick and several died, he was determined to do things differently. He took inspiration from Hamburg’s open zoo, which gave the animals more space and did away with bars where possible.

“The Zoo’s success over the years owes much to his drive and enthusiasm,” noted the West Lothian Courier of 11 August 1967. “In 1913 he was appointed director of the Zoo at Corstorphine Hill and when he retired from his post as director-secretary in 1950 the Zoo, planned on one of the most natural sites in Europe, was a ‘must’ on the tourists’ calendar in Edinburgh.”



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