Edinburgh and the three bears

Tomorrow is World Animal Day, a day aimed at raising the status of animals and to improve welfare standards. World Animal Day is being commemorated in Edinburgh with a special ceremony at the statue of Wojtek in West Princes Street Gardens.


Presscuttings and books from the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection

Wojtek, World War 2 hero

Adopted by a group of Polish soldiers in 1942, this Syrian brown bear cub was fed with condensed milk, fruit, marmalade, honey, syrup and beer. As member of the the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, Wojtek became a symbol of the Polish wartime struggle and travelled to Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped by carrying ammunition. At the end of the World War 2, the 1.8 metre tall bear was transported to Berwickshire in Scotland. Following demobilisation in 1947, Woytek was given to Edinburgh Zoo where he spent the rest of his life. Since 2015, Wojtek has his own bronze statue in Princes Street Gardens. Sculpted by Alan Beattie Herriot, the monument represents Wojtek and a Polish Army Soldier “walking in peace and unity”.

Oliwa and Ograd, the pride of Edinburgh zoo

Did you know that Edinburgh Zoo hosted two other bears from Poland? Oliwa and Ograd were given to the children of Scotland from the children of Poland in 1959. In January 1968, Oliwa gave birth to three cubs – making the pair Edinburgh’s first breeding brown bears.

Visit the Edinburgh & Scottish Collection to uncover find more hidden histories of Edinburgh.

For a bite-size history of Edinburgh Zoo explore Our Town Stories.



The story of Edinburgh Zoo

One hundred years ago Edinburgh Zoo opened its doors to the public for the first time. To mark the zoo’s centenary we’ve collaborated with Edinburgh Zoo to share its fascinating history on Our Town Stories.
Discover why the zoo’s logo is a penguin and where escapee sea lions were found in 1924. Take a nostalgic look at the Children’s Farm and meet the many famous animal faces Edinburgh Zoo has looked after over the years. Look behind the scenes at the zoo’s state-of-the-art Wildgenes Laboratory where today scientists undertake genetic analysis in support of conservation projects.

Bobo the chimp takes a bath

There are also some rather special Then & Now images to find on the Our Town Stories map

Zoo(m) lens at the ready

We visited our friends at Edinburgh Zoo recently to add to our bank of images recording the history of the zoo and its inhabitants. The full archive is on Capital Collections but here’s a sneak preview, just for you.

It’s been that kind of summer hasn’t it? The greater one-horned rhinocerous has the right idea – a nice snooze in a cool pool.

“Yes this is my best side”. This meerkat knows how to strike a pose.

We couldn’t leave out the pandas could we? Here’s Yang Guang smiling for the camera while snacking on some bamboo.

Loads more like these on Capital Collections. Enjoy, and look out for more Zoo history later this week…

Come and hear the story of Edinburgh Zoo’s Giant Pandas

Pandamania hits  Central Library next month as Iain Valentine, Edinburgh Zoo’s Director of Animal Conservation and Research, will give a talk entitled:

Not just black and white: the story of Edinburgh Zoo’s Giant Pandas

This free event will take place in Central Library on Thursday 23rd February from 6.30 – 7.45pm.

EDIT: This event is now fully booked.