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’.
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
1940 – Primley Zoo rebrands to become Devon’s Zoo and Circus
1946 – A further name change to Paignton Zoological and Botanical Gardens
1955 – Herbert Whitley Trust is founded
1991 – The Trust is renamed to become Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust
1996 – To zoo rebrands once again, this time to Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
2019 – Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust becomes Wild Planet Trust
Click here to find out more about our centenary plans for the year.