Timeline of events
Timeline of events at Chessington Zoo 1931 - 1987
- 1931 - Chessington Zoo opens as Surrey Zoological Gardens on 28th July.
- 1935 - A disastrous fire at 4am on 29th September in the circus stables, kills 5 ponies including Nancy & Squibbs and a zebra called Charlie.
- 1936 Advert tells of animals and their names - Joey the monkey in a circus on a tightrope, Teddy bears, lions, cubs, elephants, tigers, leopards, hyenas, bear's tea party as well as penguins, ostriches, flamingos, a zebra and 2 sea-lions. The zoo had over 200,000 visitors during the season. camels.
- 1937 - New arrivals at the zoo include spotted hyenas and another pair of camels.
- 1938 - Animal births include zebra, sealion, wallaby, kangaroo, penguins and 3 tiger cubs named Snip, Snap and Snorum.
- 1941 - Chessington Zoo amalgamated with Paignton Zoo to become Chessington & Devon Zoo during the war period. Animals including an Elephant, Lions & Tigers were moved to Devon. Frank Foster, a famous circus ringmaster joined Chessington as circus manager and equestrian director. The circus consists of 36 horses & ponies, 3 elephants, 2 camels, 2 llamas, 3 monkeys, a sea-lion, mule & 12 chorus girls.
- 1944 - During the war years, three people were killed, and 21 bombs fell on the grounds. A doodlebug 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; the animal was sadly put down. A monkey cage was also blown apart, allowing the animals to escape before recapture shortly after.
- 1953 - The roaring of lions could be heard at night as far away as Clayton Road, Hook. Increasing traffic in the later years muffled their cries.
- 1962/3 - Giraffes join the zoo collection this year. A Chessington hybrid caused a sensation when a Watussi bull and an American bison cow bred, producing two cows. It was believed to have been a world first. By now, a large grassy area fronting the Leatherhead Road contained the lions and tigers. A zebra, born in the notoriously foggy December of 1962, was named Smog. By now a new attraction was a common hippopotamus, Humphrey.
- 1967/70 - Ape house opened. Deputy director Eddie Orbell quits after many years to run a wildlife park in Scotland. The zoo now has 335 mammals in 101 species; 800 birds in 103 species; 51 reptiles and amphibians and 200 fish in 21 and 70 species respectively.