Looking for what to do in Edinburgh? One of the most popular – and by far the cutest – attractions in Scotland is the Edinburgh Zoo, home to over 1,000 animals from all around the world. While the zoo has a few standout stars such as its penguins, koalas and pandas, there are plenty of other animals and attractions to keep you busy all day long. Here are some fascinating Edinburgh Zoo facts…
Lions and tigers and (koala) bears, oh my! Yes, that’s right, Edinburgh Zoo is the only place you’ll be able to see koalas in the UK, amongst many other exotic animals!
Did you know Edinburgh Zoo was the first zoo in the world to house and breed penguins? Today, the Penguins Rock exhibit is Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool where you can see king penguins, gentoo penguins and northern rockhopper penguins all happily playing, swimming and splashing around in their pool. By far the highlight of the whole Arctic experience is seeing these little guys leaving their enclosure and following keepers around the grounds.
The bear necessities
Edinburgh Zoo is a zoo of many firsts. It’s the only place in the UK where you can see four native Australian koalas who live in a green eucalyptus garden and are patiently awaiting your visit. Baby Goonaroo was born in 2014 and is the first koala ever to be born in the UK. There’s also a bigger kind of bear waiting to see you – Edinburgh Zoo also has the Giant Panda Exhibit, where the UK’s only giant pandas live, Tian Tian (which means Sweetie) and Yang Guang (which means Sunshine). Watch as the two Chinese bears climb tree trunks, take a bath in a pond, or catch up on some sleep in their tree houses and hammocks.
Animals with awards
Several of Edinburgh Zoo’s past residents have held military ranks, making them very special guests of honour. Private Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear who retired to Edinburgh Zoo after serving in the World War II and the Battle of Monte Cassino, while King Penguin Sir Nils Olav currently serves as the Colonel-in-Chief and mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guard. He was knighted in 2008, under instruction from the King himself, Harald V. Make sure you salute him when you see him playing at Penguins Rock!
Looking to the future
Edinburgh Zoo is not only a place where you can hang out with your favourite furry friends, it’s also heavily involved in animal research and conservation. It’s the national centre for primate behavioural research with its Budongo Trail, a state-of-the-art chimpanzee enclosure. Living Links is part attraction, part primate research centre developed in partnership with the University of St Andrews. Other zoo-based projects include the pine hoverfly restoration (one of Scotland’s most threatened animals), saving the Scottish Wildcat from extinction, and genetic support for conservation breeding and reintroduction of animals such as tigers, oryxes, peacock pheasants and the Eurasian beaver. Want to get involved yourself? You can adopt your favourite animal via their website – choose from pandas, rhinos, koalas, tigers, chimps, penguins and more. You’ll receive an official certificate about your new ‘friend’, as well as an invitation to exclusive adopter events.
So, you’re probably wondering where is Edinburgh Zoo? It’s located on Corstorphine Hill, which also offers beautiful views over the city. It’s a short 15-minute drive from Edinburgh Castle, or else there are regular bus and train services running from the city centre. There are several Edinburgh hotels near the zoo, including the Hotel Ibis Styles Edinburgh Centre St Andrew Square.