Glasgow Zoo

Glasgow Zoo, or Calderpark Zoo, was a 99-acre (40 ha) zoological park in Baillieston, Glasgow, Scotland.

Glasgow Zoo
Glasgow Zoo logo.jpg
Date opened1947[1]
Date closed25 August 2003[2]
LocationBaillieston, Scotland
Coordinates55°50′20″N 4°06′29″W / 55.839°N 4.108°W / 55.839; -4.108Coordinates: 55°50′20″N 4°06′29″W / 55.839°N 4.108°W / 55.839; -4.108
Land area99 acres (40 ha)[1]
Annual visitors140,000[1]
Major exhibitsLions, black bears, white rhinos, Capuchin monkeys

The zoo was established in 1947 by the Zoological Society of Glasgow and West of Scotland, which was itself established in 1936.[3] The zoo was located on the lands of the former Calderpark Estate, and during its peak attracted about 140,000 visitors a year. At the zoo's peak it contained over 600 animals and had 24 full-time and many part-time or seasonal staff.

It closed in August 2003 after running up a debt of around £3.5 million and failing to renew its zookeeper licence, having been unable to meet new standards on animal welfare. In the last few years that it was open, Glasgow Zoo deteriorated mainly due to the lack of funding from the local council and due to many allegations of animal cruelty.[2]



The Zoological Society of Glasgow was founded on 15 December 1936 by Edward Hindle, who was a Professor of Zoology at Glasgow University. Its name was later changed to the Zoological Society of Glasgow and West of Scotland.[4] The initial proposal was for the zoo to be in Bellahouston Park in 1938, beginning with a four-acre enclosure with expansion as the project went on. This proposal was rejected by the organisers of the exhibition who would fund the zoo, so various other locations were considered; no inner city site was identified as a good build site. At the end of 1938 the Society looked at the Calderpark Estate, two miles beyond the city boundary with a large plot of land available for construction and free-animal enclosures. The society bought Calderpark Estate in 1939. The property had formerly been farmed by Cistercians, and the original mansion had been demolished a decade earlier when it became unsafe due to subsidence from underground coal mines.[5] The onset of World War II led to the opening of the zoo being delayed till 9 July 1947.[4]

When construction began during Britain's recovery period, many of the zoo's buildings were made from old war materials such as the enclosures being built out of concrete roadblocks (designed to hinder tank movements on the chance of invasion), bricks from demolished air raid shelters, and metal from now defunct battleships. However, the estate had remained empty for two decades before the zoo was established.[6] On the year of its opening, many animals were donated from other zoos and enclosures. Soay sheep were supplied from the island of St. Kilda, beforehand owned by the Zoological society president. Dublin Zoo supplied two lion cubs from their recent litters and London zoo loaned - and then donated - two adult lions to Glasgow Zoo's new enclosures. At the time the prize exhibits were the lions and a rare white peacock - now fairly common - which attracted many people to the zoo, some bringing their own exotic pets to add to the zoo's already expanding collection: these included monkeys, parrots and many other rarer species.

Calderpark for Glasgow Zoo railway station[7][8] (NS679625) served Calderpark Zoo and was opened in 1951 on the Glasgow, Bothwell, Hamilton and Coatbridge Railway between Shettleston and Hamilton. It closed with the line in 1955.

Last yearsEdit

Due to decreasing levels of revenue and public funding, as well as having to compete with the larger and more successful Edinburgh Zoo, Glasgow Zoo attempted to rent or sell land and animals to try to avoid bankruptcy. Starting in 1999 the zoo tried to sell off its excess to land, but delays in planning permission prevented the sale.[9] In 2000 it started to hire out some of its animals to help raise much needed cash, but drew criticism from animal welfare campaigners.[10]

In 2002, thieves stole two of the zoo's non-poisonous snakes and vandalised a van and the zoo's tea room.[11] Another break-in a few months later resulted in a parrot being stolen from the zoo.[12]


Glasgow Zoo closed on 25 August 2003[2][13] despite being set to close in late[14] September.[9] The zoo closed because of debts of £3.5 million which it accumulated after its public funding stopped in 2000. Animal welfare organizations had concerns about conditions and public safety.[2] During the time before closure, staff from the zoo in tandem with SSPCA workers helped relocate animals to other zoos or enclosures. Even though the zoological society stated interest in re-opening the attraction or the creation of a similar attraction on the site, as of November 2012 no plans have been put forward to suggest renovation on the creation of another attraction; instead the old site remains debilitated and unused.

Since the closure of the zoo in 2003, the area and old buildings have fallen into disrepair with many of the enclosures being burned, demolished or vandalized as well as illegal dumping from nearby developers and constructors causing further damage to the structures to the point where many are now unsafe for use.[15] The area itself is no longer being locked due to extensive damage to the gate and gatehouse (burned to the ground) as well as the rear gate being burst open. However, as of January 2005, a number of animals were still confirmed to be on-site including llamas, ostriches and ponies,[citation needed] these animals seemingly being cared for by animal-friendly locals or ex-zoo staff; as such most of these animals enclosures were still in good condition even though they had not been relocated to another zoo or wildlife preserve.

Animals and exhibitsEdit

African lions were one of the most popular mammals on display.

The zoo specialized in four types of animals: mammals, birds, reptiles, and farm land animals. Some of the zoo's most popular mammals were African lions, white rhinoceros, white-throated Capuchin monkeys, Asian black bears and a polar bear named Winston. Birds on display at the zoo included golden eagle, lorikeets, scarlet macaws, and Indian peacocks. Reptiles at the zoo included: major skinks, bearded lizards, a selection of snakes (boa constrictor, papuan python, Madagascan Tree Boa etc.) and a tortoises including elongated, hermanns, African spurred, and Aldabran giant.

Glasgow Zoo also housed a large farmland display. Some of these animals include sheep, goats, geese, doves, large black pigs, ponies, and guinea pigs.

Glasgow zoo was also well known as a zoological garden due to the large variety of plant life around the zoo's enclosures, and the zoo had a wildlife garden with a wide range of natural habitats including scrub woodland containing birch and ash trees, a large selection of hedge life including hawthorn and hazel and a section of traditional Scottish moorland. The wildlife garden and surrounding areas were often used for teaching as the wide variety of plants allowed for many areas of plant life to be studied.[16]


During the zoo's final years before closure, it developed a large debt due to dwindling visitor numbers, lack of public funding, and the death of Richard O’Grady, the zoo's director, in 2001, which led to poor management decisions and negligence.[citation needed] The publication of this debt in the media, along with the apparent rundown appearance of the zoo, resulted in animal rights groups looking into the welfare of the zoo's animals. A report written by Jordi Casamitjana, for Advocates for Animals, made multiple claims of animal cruelty, including that unwanted pets were killed and fed to the zoo's snakes, and that the parents of the lion cubs at the park were brother and sister. The report also highlighted the financial status of the zoo and its substantial annual losses.[17]

With such great debt it was inevitable that the zoo would fall into disrepair and the welfare of its animals would also fall dramatically. Les Ward, the director of Advocates for Animals, said that the zoo was the worst he had encountered, and that the group's report urged the licensing committee to close the zoo to the public immediately.[18] Samantha Scott, an animal behaviourist at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, also commented in the report about the mental state of Glasgow zoo's animals: "The White rhino showing signs of possible stereotypic behaviour (circling), which is normally associated with difficulties in coping with captive life, or frustrated territorial patrolling."[17] In defense of the allegations against the zoo, spokeswoman Alicia McGrewer stated "It is the humans who have not liked the aesthetics of Glasgow Zoo but animal welfare has never been compromised."

Site development after closureEdit

The housing project now placed on the Glasgow Zoo site.

By late 2004, one of the car parks built to facilitate Glasgow zoo had been redeveloped into a set of luxury flats, the second car park being fenced off to reduce vandalism.

In March 2012, Miller Homes building company submitted an application detailing plans for the construction of 78 houses on the Glasgow zoo site to Glasgow city council. After receiving only one objection, these plans were approved subject to negotiations. The plans include the development of residential areas, infrastructure works including a park and ride facility for the new development and landscaping of the nearby areas.[1][19]

In literatureEdit

Glasgow Zoo (properly "a Glasgow zoo") is mentioned in the comic book The Black Island, one of The Adventures of Tintin series by Hergé, where the gorilla Ranko says goodbye to his rescuer Tintin.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d MacMillan, Amanda (6 March 2012). "Homes to be built at former Glasgow Zoo site". STY Glasgow. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Cash crisis closes zoo". BBC. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  3. ^ "Glasgow Zoopark". The Gazetteer for Scotland. University of Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b "The History of Glasgow Zoo, Calderpark". Glasgow Zoo. Archived from the original on 2 July 2002. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Glasgow Zoo". Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Natural History as Calderpark". Glasgow Zoo. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  7. ^ Butt 1995, p. 51.
  8. ^ Wignal (1983), Page 11
  9. ^ a b "Glasgow Zoopark". Glasgow Zoo. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Zoo animals for hire". BBC. 26 February 2000. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Snakes stolen from zoo". BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  12. ^ "Sad end for 'lovesick' parrot". BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  13. ^ "Bears still homeless as Glasgow Zoo closes". Telegraph. 26 August 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  14. ^ "Glasgow Zoo closure date set". BBC. 17 June 2003. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  15. ^ "The sad 50 year decline of Glasgow's ill-fated zoo". The Scotsman. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Gardens, Gardening". Archived from the original on 10 May 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  17. ^ a b Casamitjana, Jordi. "Glasgow Zoo: The Hidden Truth" (PDF). Jordi Casamitjana. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  18. ^ Puttrick, Helen (15 June 2002). "Animal welfare group claims Glasgow Zoo should close because of squalor". Herald & Times Group. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  19. ^ "Planning Applications Committee Agenda - 06 March 2012, 11:00". Glasgow City Council. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  20. ^ Hergé 1966, pp. 43–62.


  • Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199.

External linksEdit