Old Groote Schuur Zoo

Old Groote Schuur Zoo

Old Groote Schuur Zoo

Few know of its notable legacy, the old Cape Town Zoo.
Cecil John Rhodes former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896, purchased Rhodes Estate,
the Groote Schuur Estate, on the slopes of Devils Peak in 1893,
where there was an abundance of wildebees, leopard and wildcats, deer, duiker, eland, ostriches and zebra.

Old Groote Schuur Zoo Table Mountain Live Stream

He wished to build a spacious Paestum temple of colonnades to house the king of the beasts where their natural strength could be admired, the plans were never passed due to the territorial behaviour of the beast, instead a cage-like structure was built in 1897 to house his lions and leopard.

Old Groote Schuur Zoo walkway to the Lions Den
Old Groote Schuur Zoo Lions Den

Upon his death in 1902, he bequeathed his estate to the state. In 1930 this structure was demolished and replaced by a new lion enclosure that looks like a mix between an ancient Greek amphitheatre and a war bunker.
A row of new enclosures, wire fenced cages and large aviaries were built to house his private menagerie as well as various animals
collected by him and others.

Groote Schuur Zoo, a very popular attraction in Cape Town with its abundance of oak and pine trees supplying shelter and shade, and masses of beautiful hydrangea’s, in its peaceful setting of an ample 2 hectares of magnificent grounds, where the call of the wild was heard from afar.

Rhodes’ legacy was for all to have free access to his pride and joy, making it affordable for a family outing. We would pack a picnic for the day,
something for us and of course something tasty for each animal.
Dad would support the zoo by buying all of us
our own small brown packet of peanuts for the monkeys and treat us
with an ice-cream for ourselves to enjoy.

Old Groote Schuur Zoo Table Mountain Live Stream
Old Groote Schuur Animal Sanctuary

Ranger – Zookeeper Mr Booker, who lived in the house with no electricity, which was just a little further up said that some of the creatures were local and others were from other parts of the world.  One particular monkey would behave very rudely whenever someone stood too long at its corner, it would throw the contents of its water bowl or its turd at the visitors, the others would perform swinging tricks for us, others would sit as close to the bars as they could, waiting for us to shower them with nuts.

The huge aviaries with their many birds of various sizes and colours, offered a very pretty setting with rock pools, its many trees and natural perches.
Screaming peacocks strutted everywhere fanning their beautiful tail feathers in magnificent display. A variety of feathers of all colours and sizes were to be found, we would collect them to take them home and make something of them.  Penguins were fenced in a very large aviary with the long pond.
I believe they used to have crocodiles, we only saw golfish and a salamander in a large concrete pool away from the birds. We would throw crumbs of bread to watch them surface again and a new bird, the starling, common to us today, would be waiting for its share.
We heard there was an elephant and a camel which we never saw, we also heard of a kudu bull that repeatedly got into and damaged the garden at
Rudyard Kipling’s home (known as The Woolsack which is a National Monument at UCT, the oldest medical school in South Africa) on the estate.
Another time a kangaroo managed to escape, only to be caught in a leopard trap and shot by a farmer.

Old Groote Schuur Zoo Grounds to Rhodes Memorial
Old Groote Schuur Zoo Table Mountain Live Stream

From the aviaries we would run over paved stone lions and a flagstone rendition of the Dutch pentagonal star said to be the floor plan of a Dutch fort where we would pass the centred stone sundial and check where the shadow lay to tell the time. We would skip over steps leading to where the absolute highlight of our day would be when one of the large lions raised his head and gave an almighty roar! With absolute excitement we would be entertained by watching the interaction between the lions. We were happy
to be high up above the pit and no where near the circle in case we fell in.

Old Groote Schuur Zoo from sundial to lions den
Old Groote Schuur Zoo to aviaries

When one walks around the abandoned portion of the estate today, one can still imagine, with its abundance of oak and pine trees and masses of overgrown vegetation and fynbos, in its peaceful setting of magnificent grounds, the call of the wild can still be heard.
We suggest you do not come alone when you visit, come during daylight hours, it has open access to anyone.

Becoming a burden to the Public Works Department in financing the zoo, with veterinary fees and the feeding of the animals,
accompanied by the increase in animal welfare standards, it closed in 1975.

Old Groote Schuur Zoo Pond

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