1950s zookeeper returns to old workplace at Whipsnade Zoo

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. - Credit: ZSL

They say you can't go home again, but one former zookeeper at Whipsnade Zoo that proved far from the case.

Octogenarian Leslie Wesson paid a visit to his former workplace and recreated some special moments from his time there. 

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. - Credit: ZSL

The 86-year-old took a trip down memory lane at the UK’s largest zoo, visiting the penguin colony and flock of flamingos – species he used to care for back in the day.

The veteran-keeper was keen to get stuck in and helped feed the colony of rockhopper penguins their lunch. 

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. - Credit: ZSL

Leslie, who now lives in Essex, shared a black and white image of himself in the 1950s, walking two of the zoo’s flamingos to their winter quarters - and he was pictured again saying hello to the flamingo flock 70 years later.  

1950s photo of keeper Leslie Wesson at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

1950s photo of keeper Leslie Wesson at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. - Credit: Leslie Wesson


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Whipsnade Zoo chief operating officer Owen Craft said: “We were so pleased to welcome Leslie along with his family back to our zoo many years after his zookeeping days, and it was wonderful to hear some of the stories he shared.  

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Former keeper Leslie Wesson visits ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. - Credit: ZSL

“It’s been a tough period for us here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, but one thing that has kept us going has been the unwavering support from our people and visitors.

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"Mr Wesson’s visit is a wonderful example of the long-lasting impact Whipsnade has on people, and its legacy on so many generations.”

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo first opened to visitors in 1931 as the first “open zoo” in Europe to be easily accessible to the visiting public.

A derelict farm on the Dunstable Downs was purchased by the Zoological Society of London in 1926 for £13,480 12s 10d and building work began immediately.

Animals began arriving at Whipsnade in 1928, with pheasants, llama, wombats and skunks among the first to arrive.  

Now best known for its colossal beasts that graze enormous enclosures, like the Zoo’s herd of endangered Asian elephants or its two species of rhinoceroses, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is home to 3,500 amazing animals, including brown bears, Amur tigers, spritely squirrel monkeys and adorable otters.

Proudly helping to protect endangered species, Whipsnade has contributed to reintroductions of extinct-in-the-wild species, such as the Przewalski horse and the Scimitar Horned Oryx. 

ZSL, the international conservation charity behind Whipsnade, works around the world to protect animals and their habitats.

Help this vital work continue by booking a ticket, becoming a member or donating at www.zsl.org  

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