zoo horizontal strip
Ongoing updates and improvements

Paignton Zoo’s longest-living residents celebrate centenary

Paignton Zoo’s longest-living residents, their Aldabran giant tortoises, have been celebrating the zoo’s 100th anniversary with some extra special enrichment. These tortoises are still relatively young at around 38 years old, but the zoo expects that these residents will continue to live at Paignton Zoo to see it develop for another 100 years.

PZ GT 100 Feast 04 23 LR 28
Giant tortoises are the zoo’s longest-living residents, with hopes that they’ll still be at the zoo to celebrate its bicentennial in another 100 years.

In July, Paignton Zoo will reach the huge milestone of 100 years since its gates first opened. To celebrate this momentous anniversary Paignton Zoo has begun a series of special events including themed evenings, history tours, a big birthday weekend and a spectacular light trail for the festive season.

Paignton Zoo has seen significant change during its 100-year history, but its initial purpose to educate its visitors remains just as true today as did back in 1923. Its educational heritage is being honoured with a momentous ‘Schools Go Free’ campaign this year so that all young people can discover the wonders of nature. The campaign has garnered wide attention, but there is some availability left from September, plus slots available at their sister site, Newquay Zoo.

Steve Nash, Head of Campaigns and Programmes said: “2023 will be a transformative year for Paignton Zoo. There are exciting plans in the works that will be revealed later this year including a new exhibit and a long-term conservation plan which will be released by our charity ‘Wild Planet Trust’, designed to help halt species decline.”

In July 1923, the zoo’s founder Herbert Whitley first opened the gates to Torbay Zoological Gardens, which would later be known as Paignton Zoo. Over the years Herbert would face several challenges, not least from the outbreak of World War II, but he was able to overcome these and continue to expand his collection of animals and plants.

primley zoo entrance 1941
Paignton Zoo, formerly Primley Zoological and Botanical Gardens, opened its gates for the first time on July 1st 1923.

When Herbert Whitley passed away in 1955, Paignton Zoo was entrusted to one of Whitley’s good friends, Philip Michelmore, who would honour the founder’s legacy by establishing the Herbert Whitley Trust which was rebranded to Wild Planet Trust in 2019.

Now, 100 years after its foundation, the team at Paignton Zoo has been trawling through its archives filled with photographs, videos, leaflets and even old journals. They have also recently launched a Zoo Memories Trail in the zoo highlighting how the zoo has changed over the years, and in July they will be showcasing a very special exhibition telling the story of Paignton Zoo.  

A dedicated Facebook group called ‘Memories of Paignton Zoo’ has been set up so people can share their memories and blogs are being released on their website and social media throughout the year recalling historic moments that have all helped to shape Paignton Zoo.

For more information about Paignton Zoo’s centenary year, please click here.