Edinburgh Zoo was founded in 1909 by Thomas Gillespie. It was inspired by the so-called "open menagerie" in Hamburg, founded by Karl Hagenbeck. This took a different approach than the Victorian menageries with bars and cages. Instead, the Edinburgh building was designed to have large open enclosures to separate the animals from visitors.
Edinburgh Zoo provides the opportunity to visit mammals such as African hunting dogs, bush dogs, maned wolves, wolverines, ratels, European ground squirrels, marbled ferrets, Palladian and Temminck's golden cats, margays, vicuñas, bongos, Siberian musk and various other species animals.
The menagerie also has enclosures with titi monkeys, gelada baboons and a starry sky pima section, a large group of inquisitive and playful chimpanzees that regularly entertain visitors, especially during feeding times. Edinburgh Zoo boasts cute and curious otters, funny fur seals, sniffling and shuffling giant anteaters, zebras and Bactrian camels.
Wojtek the Bear continues to be Edinburgh Zoo's mascot. During World War II, the company was tasked with supplying food and ammunition to the Allied forces at the Battle of Monte Cassino, and the Bear Soldier was not left out. He went into battle with troops and, without prompting, helped carry boxes of 25-pound artillery shells to his comrades under heavy fire without dropping a single one. After the end of the war the 22nd Company was stationed at Winfield Camp, near Hutton in Berwickshire, before being sent to Edinburgh. Wojtek was one of three thousand soldiers in the camp and became a very popular figure among local residents in the Borderlands.
Edinburgh Zoo has a rich plant heritage, most famously the Thomas Blakey Plant Nursery. When creating it, he followed the fashion of French zoos, La Bagatelle is one of them. New varieties of apple trees were grown in the rose garden, and the animal park inherited one of the most diverse collections of trees in the country, numbering 120 species.
The southern orientation means the microclimate allows bananas to thrive, and Edinburgh Zoo maintains gardens and enclosure habitat for the animals, providing food and gardens with fascinating species, from summer-scented pelargoniums to winter-time alpine flowers.