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Paignton Zoo

A focus on conservation

Paignton Zoo first opened its doors as the Torbay Zoological Gardens in 1923. A century on, the site and the scope of our work have both grown considerably.

Founder Herbert Whitley ensured that a focus on conservation, scientific research and education were there from the very beginning, believing that the zoo should be a place of learning as well as recreation. On his death in 1955, a trust was formed that would eventually become Wild Planet Trust.


From show-stopping favourites such as giraffes, Sumatran tigers and black rhinos, to lesser-known wonders like the echidna, takin and kiwi, hundreds of species of animal call Paignton Zoo their home.
Of these animals, at least 180 species have been classified on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which classifies species at high risk of extinction. In addition, over 70 species of animal at Paignton Zoo are currently involved in breeding programmes to help boost vulnerable populations.


Paignton Zoo is not just a zoo, it is also botanical garden, comprising 80 acres and thousands of different plants. Our dedicated gardeners work hard all year round to grow plants and trees from all over the world, from delicate magnolias to striking Titan arums and giant water lilies.


Paignton Zoo was there at the start of the modern zoo movement. Philip Michelmore – Herbert Whitley’s friend and successor – was instrumental in founding the Zoo Federation (now known as BIAZA, the British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), helping to drive excellence in animal welfare, conservation, education and research, as well as cooperation between zoos.

Carbon footprint

We are constantly reviewing our practices to find better ways of reducing our impact and working more sustainably. To help us do this, we have adopted an Environment Management System that has been certified to the internationally recognised ISO 14001 standard. Paignton Zoo is a leader in this field as the third zoo in the world to be given this accreditation. From heat pumps and biomass boilers to living roofs and solar heaters, we aim to lead by example.

We are particularly passionate about eliminating single-use plastic. In 2017, we stopped selling single-use plastic bottles in both of our zoos and we work with suppliers to use biodegradable and recycled plastic elsewhere too. We also work with the local community to organise beach cleans and raise awareness about alternatives to single-use plastics.