Size of the Zoo
Werribee Open Range Zoo is set upon 200ha (494 acres) of land.
The 120ha of land on which Werribee Open Range Zoo now sits was acquired in 1975 to act as agistment for the surplus stock from Melbourne Zoo. The board aimed to use the property’s landscape to develop an open range zoo.
In 1983 Werribee Open Range Zoo was opened to the public. Guests were offered a guided tour around the property which was like a safari. Species housed at the zoo were mostly ungulates including bison and deer along with ostrich and kangaroos. Whipsnade Zoo provided a pair of Southern White Rhinoceros.
For the next ten years’ guests boarded a bus from a shelter at the Werribee Park Mansion which is across the road from the zoo. The admission fee was paid as they entered the bus.
This ended in 1996 when the zoo was completely relaunched. A bistro, shop, discovery centre and walking trail was opened adding to the experience. The next year the Volcanic Plains trail was opened showing off the Western basalt plains which is an endangered grasslands ecosystem.
During 1999 four new rhinos arrived at the zoo. They came from South Africa to begin a breeding program. The zoo’s first rhino calf was born in 2002 and was named Ganini.
In 2004 the zoo unveiled its Lions on the Edge habitat. During September 2006, the zoo’s largest development ever, Kubu river hippos opened. During December 2008, an African wildlife habitat was unveiled.
Also in 2008 plans were announced by Warner Village Theme Parks to build a theme park known as African Safari World at the zoo. This was permanently postponed in July 2008 due to estimated $100 million cost to taxpayers.
During 2010 the zoo celebrated its 25th birthday.
It was also in 2010 that the Australian comedy duo Hamish and Andy appeared in the zoos under construction gorilla enclosure posing as gorillas playing with golf clubs and toy cars. The stunt was part of filming for a TV show.
In 2011 the gorilla exhibit opened with 3 western lowland gorillas arriving from Melbourne Zoo.
Ranger kids is a play space where kids can experience life in Africa. Kids can learn to tend farms, play in the helicopter so they can find injured animals and load these into the chopper for transport. At the field hospital zone, they can try treating these animals and then stretcher them to the recovery zone. Other features are a shadow puppet theatre and a viewing area into the leopard tortoise habitat.
Hippo Water Play
A range of interactive water play elements are provided in this habitat where kids can enjoy cooling off when the weather is warm.
The zoo provides a range of play areas for children to enjoy around the walking trail such as monkey rope play.
The zoo’s troop of 18 vervet monkeys are the only one’s of their kind on display in Australia.
Gorillas calling is a 6,000square metre island home for 3 male gorillas from Melbourne zoo. The exhibit is one of the largest in the world. It is set up as an island and is a great bachelor pad for these animals.
Lions on the edge
Lions on the edge allows visitors to Werribee open range zoo to come face to face with a lion. The exhibit shows how these animals co-exist with humans in Africa. The area is home to a beautiful pride of lions and features many great interactive elements including an abandoned jeep half in and half out of the exhibit that means you can sit face to face with a lion.
Nearby habitats display African wild dogs and meerkats.
Kubu river hippos
Kubu river hippos is home to the zoos hippos and Australia’s only drive through hippo river which can be experienced on the safari tour. The exhibit is a 3-hectare (7.41 acre) hippo paradise. The boardwalk allows visitors to view the hippos from every angle while the semi submerged barge the Kubu Queen allows for a closer view. The area also has an adventure trail, archaeological dig site, interpretive centres and a hippo water play area with 5 life size hippo sculptures.
This zone features a trail through Victoria’s vulnerable basalt plains grasslands. Here you can see kangaroos, brolgas and emus alongside other Australian animals wandering free.
In 2014 a koala habitat was opened here along with bandicoot hideaway a nocturnal house where people can discover critically endangered eastern barred bandicoots. Squirrel gliders, dunnarts, tawny frogmouths and striped legless lizards also live here.
Another feature is an aviary for the endangered orange bellied parrot.
Aboard a unique safari bus, you will be taken on a tour of the African grasslands habitats where you will see giraffes, rhinos, zebra, ostrich and antelope. You will also enjoy a trip through the hippo enclosure and visits through habitats with Przewalski’s horse and bison.
Pula Reserve Trail
This is the main walking trip around the zoo. Major habitats such as gorillas calling, lions on the edge and Kubu river hippos are located along it. Smaller habitats for cheetah, vervet monkeys and serval are also available for viewing.