Melbourne-Zoo-LogoMelbourne Zoo


Elliott Avenue
Parkville Victoria

Size of zoo

Melbourne zoo is set on 22ha of land.


Keeper Kids
Kids can have a go at being zookeepers, veterinarians, horticulturalists and works staff in this interactive play space.

Built during 1878 in England and bought to Australia in the 1880s this carousel was permanently installed at Melbourne Zoo in 1963. Kids can now take a ride on this carousel when they visit the zoo.


The oldest zoo in Australia Melbourne Zoo first opened its gates on October 6 1862.

Originally the animals lived in the botanic gardens and then they moved to the ‘Richmond Paddocks.’ These were opposite the gardens on the edge of the Yarra river. It was discovered these paddocks were too damp for the animals. As such the Royal Park site was provided by the City of Melbourne.

Initially the zoo was set up to acclimatise domestic animals after they had travelled from overseas. People saw these as sources of food and income so wanted to introduce them to Australia.

The zoo was modelled on London Zoo. Gardens were the main feature as only a few native Australian species and monkeys were on display at the time.

When Albert Le Souef was made director in 1870 this changed. He acquired monkeys, bears, tigers, lions and other exotic animals to go on exhibit. These animals originally lived in cages previously used by circuses before the building of wooden houses, bear pits and aviaries.

As the zoo became a popular meeting spot for visitors picnic grounds were added and the gardens improved.

Up until 1881 no entry fee was charged. This was the year it changed so development could continue. The entry fee meant that elephants and orangutans were added to the collection that year. Later hippos, bison, zebra and giraffe joined the collection.

One of the zoo’s showpieces was its collection of Australian natives. These included habitats for platypi and koala.

The 1890s brought a new style of exhibition. Cages made of brick and fronted with bars became popular at the zoo. To this day a cage in this style stands at the zoo to serve as a contrast to the modern habitats now at the zoo.

During the 19th century the zoo’s carousel was built. It still remains as the only reminder of the zoo’s fun fair that entertained visitors for many years. Up until 1961 elephants were giving rides around the zoo.

Alfred Dunbavin Butcher led a modernisation program that continues today in his time as chairman from 1962-1987. The first exhibit established was the Lion Park. Into the future the Arboreal treetops walkway, the great flight aviary and the Butterfly house which is now named in his honour opened.

In the 1980s a master plan was created with the aim to divide the zoo into bio-climatic zones which would immerse visitors in the animals habitat. Animals that share habitats in the wild now live near each other at the zoo. This includes the African rainforest where mandrills, pygmy hippos and gorillas live in nearby habitats.

Dr Butcher went on to create the zoo school during 1969. In 1980 he also established Zoo friends. This organisation now has 60,000 members.

In 2012 Melbourne Zoo turned 150. This was commemorated with a set of stamps issued by Australia Post and a number of events.

Number of animals

The zoo is home to 5,120 animals of 320 species.

Star Animals

Queenie the elephant
Queenie the Asian elephant lived at Melbourne Zoo for 40 years giving rides to kids. Unfortunately in 1944 she crushed her keeper. Late in 1994 the zoo chose to put her down due to a food shortage during the war. Her life has been turned into a children’s picture book.

Main Exhibits

Wild sea
Wild sea opened in December 2009 and cost $20million. The area is home to little penguins, Australian pelicans and seals. The exhibit also houses fish and fiddler rays.

Baboon lookout
Baboon lookout opened in September 2011 and is home to the zoos baboon family. The habitat was built at a cost of $1.2million

Orangutan sanctuary
The orangutan sanctuary at Melbourne zoo is home to 2 orangutan families and features elevated boardwalks for an up-close experince and a visitor centre with games, sculptures and viewing platforms.

The orangutan sanctuary features a number of interactive elements that educate you on these intelligent creatures. This space also includes the zooperkmarket where people can scan items and see whether they use palm oil. To produce this substance swathes of rainforest are cut down removing places for the oranguatans to live. People can also e-mail companies to demand action relating to labelling palm oil and using certified sustainable palm oil. You can also visit the on-line zoopermarket here-

Trail of the elephant
Trail of the elephant is a multi award winning habitat that takes visitors into an Asian village setting. The area is home to the zoos 5 elephants Bong Su, Mek Kapah, Dokkoon, Num Oi, Kulab. The females off spring also live here. This includes Melbourne’s first elephant calf called Mali.

Nearby to this is the Asia trail where tigers and otters live.

Lemur Island
Enter the habitat of the ring-tailed lemurs and meet them up close. This exhibit allows you to enter their space and play with them. It provides an entry into the Gorilla rainforest which houses the zoo’s gorillas, pygmy hippos and mandrills.

Growing Wild
Kids can meet meerkats and patrol for danger with them or climb into the shell of a giant tortoise. This area is split into 3 zones ground, water and trees. The area connects kids with nature to foster a love for animals.

Lion Gorge
Lion Gorge is home to a bachelor group of lions and African wild dogs. It also features the endangered Philippines crocodile and other reptiles and insects.