Groote Schuur Zoo, Cape Town (closed)

Groote Schuur Zoo – the remains of Cecil John Rhodes’ Zoo: Cape Town used to have a zoo. Originally built in 1897 by Cecil John Rhodes to house a couple of lions and a leopard given to him, it went on to house his private menagerie, one he hoped to grow until it contained animals from across the British empire, many of them coming to him as gifts.

You will find the old Cape Town Zoo alongside UCT (University of Cape Town) up on the slopes of Table Mountain (Campus exit road towards Rhodes Drive takes one there). But few know about its existence.

In 1930 the lion den was demolished by the state, who had inherited Rhodes’ estate, and a new lion enclosure was built. It became known as Cape Town’s Zoo, and functioned as such until the late 1970s.

It housed lions, emus, tahrs, a series of Himalayan mountain goats (who are said to have escaped onto Table Mountain, where a couple are still believed to roam), crocodiles and other animals (no record was kept of exactly which animals ) in cages that today would be considered unacceptable by anyone with animal welfare at heart.

It is interesting to visit as one can still imagine animals in amongst the ruins. The lion enclosure’s wall is still pretty much intact – it looks like a mix between an ancient Greek amphitheatre and a war bunker. There are also the remains of a concrete pool, paved stone lions, and a flagstone rendition of the Dutch pentagonal star, said to be the floor plan of a Dutch fort.

Students come here to smoke off campus and it’s used as somewhere to sleep at night by those in Cape Town without a home.