Here are the biggest zoos in the world according to animals, space, and visitor numbers. If you want to know the largest zoos around the world, read on!
I love going to zoos around the world. It’s amazing to see the different animals and learn about wildlife conservation. But where are the best zoos in the world, and which ones are the biggest zoos in the world?
I’ve put together a list of the largest zoos in the world, in terms of largest expanse and animal diversity. These sanctuaries are the perfect opportunity to understand nature and wildlife – and why it’s so important that we protect them.
Largest Zoos in the World
Here are the biggest zoos in the world when it comes to how many animals, the size in acres, and how many tourists visit a year. Also, at the end I take a look at how ethical zoos are – should we be supporting zoos?
1. Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park, India
Opened in 1987, Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park has truly aimed for the record books. Spanning 5,532 acres in the pilgrimage city of Tirupati, India, it’s the largest zoo in Asia. It also has an official presence in the Guinness Book of World Records for raising the world’s largest leopard – one that weighed up to 143kg!
Sri Venkateswara is dedicated to conservation initiatives that include education, rescue and rehabilitation, as well as training programs. Their Caged Vehicle Zoo Safari is proof of their commitment to natural habitats where the well-being of wildlife is first priority. Major exhibits range from peafowl and parakeet to sambar deer, white tiger and significant animals in Hindu mythology.
Is this the biggest zoo in the world? Keep reading to find out…
- How many animals are at Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park? Unknown but over 100 species of bird.
- How big is Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park in acres? 5,532 acres.
- How many tourists does Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park get a year? Unknown.
2. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Ohio, USA
Non-profit Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is both generous in land and conservation efforts. Over 11,000 animals inhabit its 588-acre estate, which sits along Scioto River’s O’Shaughnessy Reservoir. More than 200 acres have been developed as animal habitats and public spaces. They’ve raised $3 million for dozens of projects regarding the protection of fauna and wildlife.
The unique experiences at Columbus Zoo are thoughtfully designed for visitors to learn while being entertained, but in a way that doesn’t disturb the animals. Animal Encounters Village, Surfin Safari, Discovery Reef Diver and Giraffe Feeding are just few of what they have to offer. Make sure you check out their Reptile Keeper Lab and Stingray Bay as well. It’s worth joining some keeper talks for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of zoological work.
Columbus Zoo is definitely one of the biggest zoos in the world when it comes to visitor numbers, and it’s one of the most famous zoos in the world, too.
- How many animals are at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium? Over 11,000.
- How big is Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in acres? 588 acres.
- How many tourists does Columbus Zoo and Aquarium get a year? Over 2.5 million!
3. National Zoological Gardens, Pretori, South Africa
While the National Zoological Gardens of Africa impresses with its 210 acres, its uniqueness is derived from the estate itself. This national zoo is wholly comprised of natural habitat. Flat plains are separated from steep hills by the Apies River, each enclosure matching the needs of their animals.
The National Zoological Gardens currently houses 700 species within 9,000 plus animals calling it home, as one of the best world zoos.
You can expect local wildlife such as leopards, gorillas and elephants at the National Zoological Gardens of Africa, alongside rare sightings of komodo dragons and kangaroos. For a more immersive experience, sign up for its Zoo Camps or the Sunset Zoo Safari. There’s also a cable car ride connected to the hilltops so visitors can experience panoramic views of all the enclosures.
The views here are really incredible.
- How many animals are at the National Zoological Gardens? Over 9,000.
- How big is National Zoological Gardens in acres? 210 acres.
- How many tourists does National Zoological Gardens get a year? 550,000+.
4. Henry Doorly Zoo, Nebraska, USA
While Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world in terms of space, it is also home to almost 17,000 animals. A top-rated attraction in Nebraska, Northern America, it does however, feature several ‘largest’ exhibits. It’s a menagerie of fascinations!
The zoo is known for its world-tier research facility; housing the world’s first vitro-fertilised gorilla. It also houses the world’s largest indoor swamp, indoor desert, North America’s largest cat complex and glazed geodesic dome.
You think that’s it?
No – Henry Doorly Zoo features an insect zoo, butterfly conservatory and other beautifully designed highland enclosures. It definitely deserves its place on this biggest zoos in the world list.
- How many animals are at the Henry Doorly Zoo? Over 17,000+.
- How big is Henry Doorly Zoo in acres? 130 acres.
- How many tourists does Henry Doorly Zoo get a year? 1.1 million.
5. Smithsonian National Zoological Park, DC, USA
When it comes to wildlife education, Smithsonian National Zoological Park is one of the top zoos in the world, never mind the USA. First opening its doors in 1886 as a research and conservation centre, it has continued to prioritise education by offering free entry. Camps, school trips and even birthday sleepovers are just part of their initiatives to engage younger audiences.
The Amazonia sector, Asian Trail and Birdhouse are huge contributors to its popularity, followed by the Cheetah Conservation Center and elephant trails. The kids’ farm looks pretty sweet too! It’s a great option for families with kids if you’re visiting the D.C area in the USA.
- How many animals are at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park? Over 2,000.
- How big is the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, in acres? 163 acres.
- How many tourists does Smithsonian National Zoological Park get a year? Over 2 million.
6. Moscow Zoo, Russia
Not only is Moscow Zoo the largest zoo in Russia, it’s also among the oldest zoos in Europe. The 1864 property covers 53 acres to house over 6000 animals. An aquarium and sea lion exhibit were later added to the complex in the 1990s, further developing its species diversity. It’s now one of the biggest zoos in the world.
The zoo doubles as a research and breeding centre for endangered species, studying both behaviour and reproduction. You can observe their efforts via footbridges that span the zoo, bringing you through bear, large cats, elephant and even penguin enclosures.
- How many animals are at the Moscow Zoo? Over 6,000.
- How big is the Moscow Zoo, in acres? 53 acres.
- How many tourists does Moscow Zoo get a year? Over 1.5 million.
7. San Diego Zoo Safari Park, California, USA
San Diego Zoo Safari Park encompasses a total area of 1,800 acres, combining safari park with the smaller zoo complex. It might not be the largest zoo in the world, but the wealth of experiences is incomparable!
Various safari options at the zoo explore regional zones like African Plains, Asian Savanna, Elephant Valley and Tiger Trail.
As a non-profit organisation, its experts don’t just focus on preservation and conservation; it also aims to release the animals back into the wild where appropriate. Even as you admire these open-air exhibits, take care to learn about the efforts behind them. Additionally, it is known for breeding endangered species such as giant pandas. Definitely one of the top zoos in the world!
- How many animals are at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park? Over 3,500.
- How big is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in acres? 1800 acres.
- How many tourists does San Diego Zoo Safari Park get a year? Over 5.5 million.
8. The Bronx Zoo, New York, USA
Bet you never expected to find a large zoo in metropolitan New York!
A whopping 265 acres of park lands are dedicated to over 4,000 animals, including some endangered species. Managed by the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), it is one-fifth part of a wider system. When I first heard of it, I was so intrigued – no wonder it gets 2 million visitors annually. Visiting the zoo is one of the best things to do in New York City.
It’s a mystery how the zoo managed to fit naturalistic habitats in an urban setting, but the results speak for themselves. Award-winning exhibitions include the Himalayan Highlands, Baboon Reserve, Jungle World; other visitor favorites are the World of Birds and Wild Asia.
This is also one of the most famous zoos in the world.
- How many animals are at the Bronx Zoo? Over 4,000.
- How big is the Bronx Zoo, in acres? 265 acres.
- How many tourists does Bronx Zoo get a year? Over 2 million.
9. Toronto Zoo, Canada
Divided into seven geographic areas, the 710-acre Toronto Zoo is the largest in Canada. An equally impressive 16,000 animals live here, showcasing species from across Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Indo-Malaya, Tundra Trek, Eurasia and Canadian Domain. Chockfull of entertainment (including the Tundra Air Ride and Seasonal Wild Rouge Zipline), it’s perfect for families!
Apart from cool animal enrichment shows and keeper experiences, their special feature – the Adopt an Animal private tour – is a great idea. All these activities are designed for maximum visitor engagement to shorten the distance between humans and wildlife. This is the largest zoo in Canada, and one of the largest zoos in the world.
- How many animals are at the Toronto Zoo? Over 16,000.
- How big is the Toronto Zoo, in acres? 710 acres.
- How many tourists does Toronto Zoo get a year? Over 1.3 million.
10. Beijing Zoo, China
One of the top zoos in the world was founded in 1906 – during the late Qing dynasty. Beijing Zoo, at 219 acres, is home to over 14,500 animals! Renowned for its collection of exotic and endemic animals such as the Giant Panda, Chinese Great Salamander and South China Tigers; the complex also has an incredible variety of marine animals. Around 500 marine species are held at the largest aquarium in the country.
Like most nationally operated best world zoos, Beijing Zoo is committed to the preservation and education of its inhabitants. Attracting 6 million people every year, it ranks high on Beijing’s tourist to-do list.
- How many animals are at Beijing Zoo? Over 14,500 animals.
- How big is Beijing Zoo in acres? 219 acres.
- How many tourists does Beijing Zoo get a year? Over 6 million.
11. The Wilds Safari Park, Ohio, USA
A lesser known gem of a zoo is Ohio’s The Wilds Safari Park, which stretches out a generous 9,154 acres. Interestingly enough, it hosts only 300 animals – a very small population compared to the zoos we’ve looked at so far. Built on reclaimed land, what was once mining grounds have now become a conservation research and breeding centre. It’s only an hour and 45 minutes from Columbus Zoo so you can do them both when you’re in the area.
Together they definitely make one of the biggest zoos in the world.
Thanks to the massive space, visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. You can go horseback riding, fishing, ziplining and even camp at the zoo. I highly recommend this zoo for adventurous spirits that want to learn more about life in the jungle.
- How many animals are at The Wilds Safari Park? Over 300 animals.
- How big is The Wilds Safari Park in acres? 9,154 acres.
- How many tourists does The Wilds Safari Park get a year? Over 6 million.
12. Berlin Zoological Garden, Germany
The oldest zoo in Germany, Berlin Zoological Garden has established sustainable and commendable conservation systems since 1844. Its collaborations with universities and research institutes number many, helping to safeguard, breed and reintroduce endangered species.
Berlin Zoological Garden is one of the largest zoos in the world when it comes to number of animals – approximately 19,500 inhabitants! I’m impressed by how well it structured the 86 acres land to fit so many animals comfortably. Do take up the safari experience if you visit; it’s truly an amazing zoo.
It’s one of the biggest zoos in the world by animal numbers.
- How many animals are at the Berlin Zoological Garden? Over 19,500 animals.
- How big is the Berlin Zoological Garden in acres? 86 acres.
- How many tourists does the Berlin Zoological Garden get a year? Over 3.57 million.
13. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, California, USA
Formerly named Living Desert Museum, this botanical garden and zoo combo stretches occupies 1,800 acres in California’s Sonoran desert. Unlike the usual grasslands and highlands, The Living Desert Zoo protects the Californian desert eco-system which is threatened by Palm Springs urbanisation. It’s one of the best things to do near Palm Springs.
While there are only a few hundred animals living here, the landscapes are worth exploring too. From giraffe feeding to petting kraal and hiking all day, you could easily spend hours at this zoo!
A behind-the-scenes tour is also available so hop on that if you’re curious about habitat preservation.
- How many animals are at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens? Over 450 animals.
- How big is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in acres? 1,800 acres.
- How many tourists does the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens get a year? Over 350,000.
14. Arignar Anna Zoological Park, India
Founded in 1855, Arignar Anna Zoological Park has quite the history behind it. Originally built as a library and apothecary of Tamil Nadu’s fauna and flora, it later expanded into a wildlife sanctuary as well. As the second-largest zoo in India, it boasts 2,553 species of plants alongside 169 species of animals.
Many locals like to picnic here but from a zoo’s perspective, it’s renowned for endangered species’ breeding programs. Not only do they facilitate rehabilitation for abandoned wild animals, they also tailor programs for teachers and students. For those visiting, don’t miss out on the Lion and Deer Safari or the walk-thru aviary.
- How many animals are at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park? Over 2,600 animals.
- How big is the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in acres? 1,490 acres.
- How many tourists does the Arignar Anna Zoological Park get a year? Over 2 million.
15. Chester Zoo, Cheshire, England
Rare animals alert!
Chester Zoo, a 125-acre property opened by the Mottershead family in 1931, isn’t just a sizeable attraction in England. Numbering among the top zoos in the world, the sheer weight of 35,000 animals is staggering. Better yet, these include animals verging on extinction. You can take a slow exploration via scooter, and definitely check out the majestic Sumatran Tigers and Asian Elephants. It’s one of the most famous zoos in the UK.
You can go on a boat trip on the Lazy River, and with plenty of picnic spots, on-site restaurants and even children play areas; you could easily spend an entire day here. It’s up there as the biggest zoo in England.
- How many animals are at Chester Zoo? Over 35,000 animals.
- How big is Chester Zoo in acres? 400 acres.
- How many tourists does Chester Zoo get a year? Over 2 million.
16. Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens
Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens has gone through much iteration of names but consistently proves itself as one of the best zoos in the world. Only 324 acres of its 750 acres have been developed, meaning there’s plenty of opportunity for growth.
What I appreciate about this zoo is its efforts in creature the most naturalistic habitats possible. Diverse landscapes are carefully maintained for both plant life and wildlife; you’ll find over 500 species of animals within the 3,000 or so inhabitants. Visitors can explore and learn under its discovery programs, which include animal feedings, rides and personalised tours. Visiting the zoo is one of the best things you can do in Florida, and one of the top activities in Miami.
- How many animals are at Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens? Over 3,000 animals.
- How big is Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens in acres? 750 acres.
- How many tourists does Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens get a year? Unknown.
17. North Carolina Zoo, USA
The biggest zoo in North America, North Carolina Zoo, owns a total of 2,600 acres of forested land. Even with only 500 acres developed so far, it takes hours to fully explore. But this amount of space is perfect for its 1,800 animals – there’s no overcrowding at all!
Some highlights include the Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden (one I hope to visit one day) and Expedition Africa. The Endangered Species Carousel and Acacia Station Giraffe Deck are two crowd favorites; you can also spot animals such as the Arctic fox, blue-tongued skink, addra gazelle, beaded lizard and bongo. There’s quite the variety!
- How many animals are at North Carolina Zoo? Over 1800 animals.
- How big is North Carolina Zoo in acres? 2600 acres.
- How many tourists does North Carolina Zoo get a year? Over 900,000.
18. National Zoological Park, Delhi, India
You’ve never experienced a zoo like this before – the National Zoological Park in Delhi is nestled within a 16th-century citadel. Opt between battery-operated vehicles or beautiful pathways as you explore the zoo’s 176 acres. It might not be the world’s largest zoo but it is home to the world’s largest population of endangered species.
Among the 1,350 animals are rare powerhouses like the Royal Bengal Tiger and One-horned Indian Rhinoceros. Most of the zoo’s conservation efforts run towards breeding programs to keep these species alive. Swamp deer, brow-antlered deer and Asiatic lions are other protected animals within this sanctuary.
You can easily fit this zoo into my 3-week itinerary for India, just add another day in Delhi.
- How many animals are at National Zoological Park? Over 1350 animals.
- How big is National Zoological Park in acres? 176 acres.
- How many tourists does National Zoological Park get a year? Over 2.7 million.
19. Oakland Zoo, California, USA
Just 100 acres might not sound like a lot compared to some of the zoos mentioned above, but Oakland Zoo established one of the largest veterinary hospitals in California at 17,000 square feet. It is also famous for its elephant care program. It’s one of the best zoos in California, as well as the world.
Hosting its 600 animals in naturalistic habitats, Oakland Zoo is another great example of conservation rather than captivity. Once you’re done showing the family around, embark on popular trekking trails nearby to fully charge your in-nature meter!
- How many animals are at Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens? Over 600 animals.
- How big is Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens in acres? Over 740 acres.
- How many tourists does Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens get a year? Unknown.
MORE BIG ZOOS FOR YOUR LIST:
- Pairi Daiza in Brugelette in Hainaut, Belgium
- Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
- Zoo de Beauval, France
- Whipsnade Zoo, UK
- Loro Parque, Tenerife
- Toronto Zoo
- Australia Zoo
- Taronga Zoo
Are Zoos Ethical?
There has been countless debate on whether zoos are ethical. Some argue that animals should be allowed to roam freely instead of being used for entertainment; others argue that zoos are integral to the conservation of certain species and an important tool for education. Because zoos land in a grey area, I suggest doing proper research on the zoo you’re hoping to visit if ethics play a huge part in your decision.
It’s easier to list out the marks of what makes a zoo good or bad so you can make your own decision as to whether you think a zoo is ethical or not. As you make your way through these biggest zoos in the world, do this mental ticklist in your head.
Ethical zoos prioritise animal welfare and conservation efforts above all else – public access is an effort to educate the masses. Some characteristics include:
- Holds AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accreditation which demands strict standards in animal care, enclosure design and more.
- Animal enclosures kept as realistic to the animals’ natural habitat as possible.
- Animal toys and games designed to simulate living in the wild.
- Regulated or prohibited animal touching.
- Purposeful breeding of endangered species.
- Research at the zoo or in the wild.
- Educational information spread across the zoo.
- Non-profit or government ownership with a board of directors.
- Permanent staff comprised of scientists, veterinarians and relevant specialists.
- Letting babies stay with their parents.
There are plenty of cues that reveal unethical zoos as well. First and foremost, these zoos exploit animals for profit. Some warning signs are:
- Private or non-professional ownership.
- Allowing unskilled and unaccredited personnel to handle the animals.
- Using babies as promotional material.
- Babies raised by humans.
- Breeding without purpose and culling when space runs out.
- No educational or conservation value (no information about how they’re threatened in the wild).
- No consideration regarding animal habitat; manmade enclosures.
- Emphasises animal encounters; open enclosures .
- Animals used for performances.
I’m by no means an expert on this topic but this is just the advice I’ve picked up from years of going to the occasional zoo on my travels. If you want to know more – contact these zoos or expert-led forums for more information.
Biggest zoos in the world, by numbers
So, what is the biggest zoo in the world?
Let’s take a look at the world’s largest zoo by numbers…
- Biggest zoo in the world in terms of animals: Chester Zoo, Cheshire, England at 35,000 animals.
- Biggest zoo in the world in terms of acres? The Wilds Safari Park, Ohio, USA at 9,154 acres.
- Biggest zoo in the world in terms of visitor numbers? Beijing Zoo, China at a over 6 million visitors.
While size isn’t the mark of a world-class zoo, it does allow better opportunity for naturalistic habitats and conservation initiatives. There are many factors that make up the world’s best zoos and this is simply one of them. After all, all the top zoos in the world have their own unique features and story.
Once you’ve been to all the biggest zoos in the world, you can then work out which is the best zoo in the world, for you.
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