Devon Zoo & Circus - New page under construction
As mentioned previously in the history section, there was a temporary wartime expedient business merger between Reginald Goddard’s Chessington Zoo and Herbert Whitley’s Primley / Paignton Zoo in 1939. Due to the impending second World War, government restrictions lead to the temporary closure of Chessington zoo, as part of a programme preventing large crowds forming at entertainment venues during wartime. This resulted in a partnership between Reginald Goddard and Herbert Whitley, the owner of Primley Zoo in Paignton. Animals including Peggy, the daughter of the tigress Beauty and star of the film ‘Elephant Boy’, and a home-bred lioness and her four cubs were moved from Chessington to Paignton, and the Devon Zoo and Circus was created.
The ‘exile’ lasted until 1946, when Reginald returned to Chessington with his stock.
Many animals and staff still remained at Chessington during the war years along with a number of troops that were also stationed on the grounds. It recorded that around 21 bombs fell on the grounds, three people were killed along with many animals from falling bombs. A doodlebug is said to have exploded in a tree above Jack, the polar bears cage. He was thrust against the side of the cage by the blast and lay silent for days, but amazingly recovered. A penguin enclosure was destroyed and an ostrich’s leg was severed and flung 30ft. A monkey cage was also blown apart, allowing the animals to escape before recapture shortly after.
Above: Various newspaper clippings on the merger between Herbert Whitley & Reginald Goddard and the re-opening of Primley Zoo.