Bradleys Head Rd
New South Wales
Size of the Zoo
Taronga Zoo is located on 21 ha (52 acres) of land on Sydney Harbour.
In March 1879, the Zoological Society of NSW was founded. This group went on to build the first public zoo in New South Wales (NSW) in 1884 at Billy Goat Swamp in Moore Park.
During 1908 the zoo’s direction changed when Albert Sherbourne Le Souef, the zoo’s secretary journeyed to Germany and saw the bar less habitats at Hamburg Zoo. Billy Goat Swamp was too small for these plans though and he sought a new site.
During April 1912, the NSW government granted 43 acres of land that were then part of Ashton Park where a zoo could be built. During 1913 the zoo’s management passed to a trust which was named the New Zoological Gardens Trust. This then became the Taronga Zoological Park Trust.
Taronga Zoo was named for the aboriginal word for ‘beautiful view.’
During April of 1916 a further 9 acres were granted.
At the new site an elephant temple, monkey pits, seal ponds, the top entrance, aviaries, paths, roadways and refreshment rooms. Moving from Moore Park to Taronga Zoo meant 228 mammals, 64 reptiles and 552 birds crossed the harbour. Many were moved on flat top barges.
On the 7th October 1916 Taronga Zoo opened to the public.
Further construction continued with a giraffe house completed in 1923, an aquarium in 1927, a floral clock in 1928, a Thar mountain in 1932 and the tiger pits during 1939. From 1940-1960 the zoo opened koala, ape and large cat habitats under the directorship of Edward Hallstrom.
A critical review in 1967 spurred changes at the zoo. Taronga Zoo changed its focus to be on scientific research, conservation and education. As part of this the zoo completed nocturnal and platypus houses, waterfowl ponds and a walk-in aviary. A vet centre and an education centre were also completed. The zoo lost their circus image by removing the elephant ride, monkey circus, carousel and train.
During June 1973, the Trust was replaced with the Zoological Parks Board of NSW. In 2008-2009 they renamed this board the Taronga Conservation Society to better reflect their global reach.
In 2000 a 12-year masterplan began which invested $250 million in Taronga Zoo. This led to the building of the Backyard to Bush Precinct, Wild Asia with its Asian Elephants, Great Southern Oceans a sea habitat, an updated chimpanzee habitat and a redeveloped front entrance.
The zoo opened the Wild Asia precinct with Asian elephants during 2006.
On July 4th 2009 the zoo celebrated the birth of Australia’s first elephant calf.
In April 2014, their Royal Highnesses’, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with their son George visited Taronga Zoo to open the Bilby enclosure for a bilby called George.
Only twice has the zoo closed in the past. From August to October 1917 the zoo housed labourers that were working on the Sydney Wharves during a transport strike. The other closure was to celebrate the Australia bi-centenary on Australia day 1998.
Number of Animals
4,000 animals representing over 350 species are housed at Taronga Zoo.
Take a ride across Taronga Zoo viewing the exhibits from above. You’ll enjoy brilliant views out across Sydney Harbour as well as the elephant exhibit.
Ride across Taronga Zoo from Backyard to Bush to the sun bears aboard the zoo train.
A range of playgrounds are located around Taronga Zoo featuring traditional play elements along with water based play activities.
Watch the underwater antics of Taronga’s seal colony as they frolic in their daily shows. Three different species of seal are trained to perform in the show, the Californian sea lion, the Australian sea lion and the New Zealand fur seal. These rotate performance duties so they may not all be on display each day.
QBE Free Flight Bird Show
The daily free flight bird shows allow you to take in the graceful sight of Taronga Zoo’s bird stars as they soar overhead. You can watch species such as Andean condors, galahs and red tailed black cockatoos as they take to the skies.
Wild Ropes Challenge
Wild Ropes is an obstacle course with challenges such as a flying fox above the ground. This challenge has a separate entrance to the zoo so can be completed separately or as part of a zoo visit.
Taronga Zoo is where the first elephant calf born in Australia was born. Mother, Thong Dee gave birth to Luk Chai on July 4th 2009. He now resides at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
The only Fiordland crested penguin held permanently at any zoo in the world. He was found washed ashore in November 2006 and cared for by the zoo.
Opened in 2006 the stars of this area are the Asian elephant family. Rescued from Asia they have flown here to form a family which has already experienced several births. Also on display are small-clawed otters, pygmy hippopotamus, gibbons and many birds.
Here the large chimpanzee colony is on display. Nearby live the giraffes, zebras, bongoes, barbary sheep and fennec foxes. There is also a lively colony of meerkats on display.
As you enter this exhibit you can see the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon on display. Inside see a range of the world’s snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs on display.
Venture to the sea side to watch pelicans, seals and penguins swim. Go beneath the waves and watch their antics behind glass windows.
Venture from a backyard with pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits along with house guests such as spiders to the bush. In the bush you can venture underground to see wombats in their burrows. Above ground are koalas, quokkas, emus and kangaroos. A farm yard exhibit features sheep, chickens and pigs.
Australia’s unique creatures are on show here. One of the star’s is the platypus featured in a nocturnal house helping you to see them. Koala’s, kangaroos, emus, echidnas and more are also on display.
In the Australian rainforest aviary, you can see a range of colourful birds as they fly around you.
The Australian Nightlife habitat reverses the lighting so you can see the creatures of the night during the day. A feature is the bilby with other species on display include bats and possums.
This habitat is the home of Taronga Zoo’s Western lowland gorilla group.
Lemur Forest Adventure
This habitat features a state of the art playground and a walk-in lemur enclosure where people can enter the habitat at different times of the day.