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Kings of swing: Abseilers start work turning historic London Zoo aviary into new home for monkeys

·2-min read

There weren’t just monkeys swinging at London Zoo on Friday as abseilers began transforming one of the zoo’s most famous enclosures.

Experts scaled and descended the Grade II listed Snowdon Aviary as work started to transform the structure into a new home for primates.

Footage shows a team carefully peeling away the first of 200 mesh panels wrapped around the former aviary ahead of its rebirth as a new home for a troop of Eastern black and white colobus monkeys.

To celebrate the renovation project’s milestone, the Zoo also revealed that the new the former aviary will be renamed Monkey Valley when it opens next summer - in recognition of its new role as the primate troop’s new home.

One of the Zoo’s most recognisable structures, the Snowdon Aviary celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, after far surpassing its intended 30-year lifespan.

The Snowdon Aviary was Britain’s first walk-through aviary when the exhibit opened in 1965. Conceived by Lord Snowdon and realised by architect Cedric Price with structural engineer Frank Newby, it was pioneering in its use of aluminium and tension for support.

 (ZSL London Zoo)
(ZSL London Zoo)

Following the renovation, which will include the replacement of over 3800 sqm of mesh, its distinctive peaked silhouette will be fully restored to the London skyline, taking the same size and form as the original.

ZSL London Zoo’s Director of Fundraising and Engagement, James Wren said: “It’s incredible to think that this piece of architectural history has now been seen in its present form on the Primrose Hill skyline for the last time.

“Taking down the first 25metre tall panel was no small feat for everyone involved today and it will take up to a month of further careful work for the remaining panels to be removed.”

The new, more flexible mesh replacing the long-standing panels has been chosen with the colobus monkeys’ needs in mind but is also closer to architect Cedric Price’s original vision for the structure. In the 1960s, Price’s plans called for a steel that had both tensile movement and flexibility, which didn’t exist at the time.

Colobus monkeys will populate the transformed enclosure at London Zoo (Will Amlott / ZSL London Zoo)
Colobus monkeys will populate the transformed enclosure at London Zoo (Will Amlott / ZSL London Zoo)

Mr Wren said: “The original rigid steel mesh panels will be replaced with an exciting new - and more flexible - material, which the agile colobus monkeys will easily be able to climb on and jump from.”

“We’re excited to get to work on this ambitious and sensitive restoration project, which will breathe new life into a truly iconic structure - part of the capital’s history for more than 50 years.”

The redevelopment is taking place thanks to £4million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund - alongside assistance from other dedicated ZSL supporters.#

For more information on Monkey Valley at ZSL London Zoo, head to  

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