On July 28th 2016, Chessington World of Adventures Resort will be celebrating the Zoo’s 85th Anniversary! This is a landmark birthday for the Resort Theme Park which first opened as a Zoo in 1931.
Despite the Zoo and Theme Park being an established part of the Chessington area for as long as most local residents can remember, a lot of people aren’t aware of the popular family attraction’s eccentric beginnings. The Zoo itself began when entrepreneur Reginald Goddard, a Flight Lieutenant in WW1, saw the famous Burnt Stub mansion for sale. While most house buyers are looking for a home for their family, Reginald was on the hunt for a property to house his large personal collection of Exotic Animals!
After purchasing the mansion, Reginald opened the Chessington Zoological Gardens to the public on July 28th 1931 and it soon became a hugely popular attraction. Chessington Zoological Gardens was known for its many different types of entertainment on offer which included a circus, a funfair and a miniature railway in addition to the Zoo. According to history the Zoo had 200,000 visitors in its first season.
After Sir Reginald’s death in 1946 Chessington Zoo was registered as a company and in 1987 became the Theme Park it is known as today – Chessington World of Adventures Resort. While there have been many changes to the Zoo in the last 85 years there have been some memorable experiences along the way. One of the most famous creatures from Chessington Zoo was Lulu the ‘naughty’ Elephant who appeared on Blue Peter on 3rd July 1969 and caused havoc in the studio, going to the toilet on the floor and stepping on presenter John Noakes’s Foot. She then dragged her keeper through the studio!
Chessington’s oldest Zoo resident is Bafia the female Western Lowland Gorilla who has been with the Zoo since the 1960’s and is a firm favourite of the keepers as she is such a big character. She is very people orientated and very interested in her human counterparts; our keepers have even found that she’ll flirt with male members of staff when she’s in season! She can be a bit of a madam and doesn’t like to have any food waste in her enclosure, once she’s eaten a lettuce she will pass the end back to our Zoo staff to be disposed of and likewise if she eats a fruit or vegetable with a skin, she will pass the skin back out to the keeper, as if they’re her personal butler. When Bafia is in a good mood or finds something entertainment she’ll clap her hands together so that everyone knows it!
Chessington has been celebrating this landmark anniversary all week! If you can’t get down to the Resort Theme Park make sure you keep an eye on social media for live streaming from behind the scenes with some of our amazing animals including giraffes, rhinos, gorillas, lions and many, many more.
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For further information please call the Frank team on 020 7693 6999 or email CWOA@frankpr.it.
Notes to Editors