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"I suppose we could take him to the zoo, ... and leave him in the car...."
Petunia Dursley's reluctance to take Harry to the zoo.[src]

There was a zoo in Surrey, where the Dursleys took Dudley on his eleventh birthday on 23 June 1991.[1]


Dudley trapped in the snake tank

Vernon Dursley and Petunia Dursley took their son Dudley Dursley to this zoo for his eleventh birthday on 23 June 1991, along with his friend Piers Polkiss and, reluctantly, their nephew, Harry Potter. While at the zoo, they bought ice cream treats, saw a gorilla that reminded Harry of Dudley, ate at the zoo restaurant, and visited the reptile house.

At first, Dudley found the place boring because none of the reptiles were moving around much, but when no one was watching, Harry discovered that he was able to speak to snakes when he realised a boa constrictor understood what he was saying.

When Dudley and Piers saw the snake moving around, they rushed to the get to the cage, and Dudley pushed Harry out of the way. In anger, Harry made the glass of its cage vanish, unknowingly using underage magic. This allowed the boa to escape captivity. Soon after, the Zoo director brought Mr and Mrs Dursley into his office and gave them tea while asking for forgiveness.[1]

Behind the scenes

  • The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone identifies this zoo as the London Zoo, where the scene was filmed.[2] However, this cannot be considered canon as, in the novel, when Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley get his school supplies, Harry states that he had never been to London before.[3]
  • In the film the snake that Harry speaks to is a Burmese Python rather than a Brazilian Boa constrictor and it simply offers its thanks when leaving; in the book, the Boa also expresses its intention to travel to Brazil.
  • In the book, Dudley and Piers jump back when the glass vanishes. In the film, Dudley falls into the tank and is trapped when the glass reappears.[1][4]
  • It is possible that this zoo is meant to be Chessington World of Adventures, a zoo and adventure park located in real-world Surrey. Chessington World of Adventures has a reptile house and a family of gorillas, like the zoo featured in J. K. Rowling's book.


Notes and references