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Our Story: A charitable Trust is born

This is the final part of our four-part series of blogs documenting the early history of Paignton Zoo (click here to read part 1, here to read part 2 and here to read part 3)

The booming years following World War II would sadly be the final ones for our founder Herbert Whitley, who passed away in 1955 after a short illness. Before his death, he was fortunate enough to witness the zoo he had founded flourishing. The zoo had become a huge asset for the residents of Torbay, and Whitley had gained immense respect for his many accomplishments. Despite being a reclusive character, upon his death many people from the world of conservation, horticulture and zoology, as well as in the local community, paid tribute to the man who founded Paignton Zoo and acknowledged him as ‘a sort of genius’.

Mr Sinclair meeting Herbert Whitley
Herbert Whitley, left, meets aquarium curator Harry Sinclair
Whitley’s legacy

The zoo was bequeathed to one of Whitley good friends, Philip Michelmore, who had shared Whitley’s passion for nature and conservation. Michelmore would honour the legacy of his friend by establishing the Herbert Whitley Trust, a non-profit organisation that would carry on running the zoo in line with Whitley’s values. Although the name of the Trust has changed several times over the years, first to Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and then to Wild Planet Trust, it continues to manage Paignton Zoo along with Newquay Zoo in Cornwall and three local nature reserves to this very day. The Trust’s mission is to Help Halt Species Decline, an ambitious and empowering goal which we believe Herbert Whitley would wholeheartedly approve of.

What’s in a name?

1923 – Torbay Zoological Gardens opens

1930 – The zoo is renamed to Primley Zoological Gardens

primley zoological gardens

1940 – Primley Zoo rebrands to become Devon’s Zoo and Circus

devons zoo circus

1946 – A further name change to Paignton Zoological and Botanical Gardens

Pre Gibbon Logo

1955 – Herbert Whitley Trust is founded

1991 – The Trust is renamed to become Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust

website wwct

1996 – To zoo rebrands once again, this time to Paignton Zoo Environmental Park

Gibbon Logo Pre 2016

2019 – Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust becomes Wild Planet Trust

wild planet trust logo

Click here to find out more about our centenary plans for the year.