Situated 3 miles (5 km) west of the centre of Edinburgh, on Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh Zoo is owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. The Society, a charitable organisation committed to the conservation of threatened wildlife world-wide, was founded in 1909. At 33.1 ha (82 acres) in size, with more than 1600 animals, 120 staff and more than 500,000 visitors per annum, it is Scotland's largest and most popular wildlife attraction. Edinburgh Zoo was one of the first in Britain to display animals in their natural surroundings and was completed in 1927, to the design of Sir Patrick Geddes (1854 - 1932).
The zoo includes the world's largest penguin pool. The notable penguin colony was established by Edward Salvesen (1857 - 1942), who imported the birds from Antarctica using his family's whaling ships and became the first President of the Society. Substantial enclosures mimicking natural habitats include Chimpanzees in the Budongo Trail; Zebra, Lesser Kudu and Nyala Antelope in the African Plains and Brilliant Birds, which houses exotic birds alongside amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. Other popular animals include Amur Leopards, Asiatic Lions, Jaguars, Koalas, Leopards and Meerkats. The arrival of two Giant Pandas from the Ya'an reserve in Chengdu (China) in 2011 brought a significant increase in visitor numbers for the zoo which had been facing financial problems. The pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, are the first to come to the UK in seventeen years and live in a specially-constructed enclosure. The animals are on a multi-million pound ten-year lease agreed with the People Republic of China, an arrangement which has been criticised by animal welfare campaigners. Most of the animals in the zoo are involved in successful managed breeding programmes, in collaboration with other zoos and conservation agencies world-wide. The zoo also supports programmes of environmental education and scientific research. Opened in 2008, the Living Links operates in partnership with the University of St. Andrews, supporting the work of the Scottish Primate Research Group which extends to the Universities of Stirling, Edinburgh and Abertay, with visiting researchers from around the world. This allows the study of psychology and behaviour, seeking to understand how primates perceive their social and physical environment. The science is explained to the public and researchers can be observed undertaking experiments which rely on the cooperation of Squirrel and Capuchin monkeys.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland also owns the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, near Aviemore, which houses various Scottish animals, some of which are extinct in the wild.