A zoo (short for zoological garden or zoological park, and also called an animal park or menagerie) is a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also be bred.

The term zoological garden refers to zoology, the study of animals, a term deriving from the Greek zōion (ζῷον, "animal") and lógos (λóγος, "study"). The abbreviation "zoo" was first used of the London Zoological Gardens, which opened for scientific study in 1828 and to the public in 1857.[3] The number of major animal collections open to the public around the world now exceeds 1,000, around 80 percent of them in cities. In the United States alone, zoos receive over 180 million visitors annually.[4]


London Zoo, which opened in 1826, first called itself a menagerie or "zoological forest," which is short for "Gardens and Menagerie of the Zoological Society of London." The abbreviation "zoo" first appeared in print in the UK around 1847, when it was used for the Clifton Zoo, but it was not until some 20 years later that the shortened form became popular in the song "Walking in the Zoo on Sunday" by music-hall artist Alfred Vance. The term "zoological park" was used for more expansive facilities in Washington, D.C., and the Bronx in New York, which opened in 1891 and 1899 respectively.

Relatively new terms for zoos coined in the late 20th century are "conservation park" or "biopark". Adopting a new name is a strategy used by some zoo professionals to distance their institutions from the stereotypical and nowadays criticized zoo concept of the 19th century. The term "biopark" was first coined and developed by the National Zoo in Washington D.C. in the late 1980s. In 1993, the New York Zoological Society changed its name to the Wildlife Conservation Society and rebranded the zoos under its jurisdiction as "wildlife conservation parks."


Royal menageries

The predecessor of the zoological garden is the menagerie, which has a long history from the ancient world to modern times. The oldest known zoological collection was revealed during excavations at Hierakonpolis, Egypt in 2009, of a ca. 3500 B.C. menagerie. The exotic animals included hippos, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and wildcats.[5] King Ashur-bel-kala of the Middle Assyrian Empire created zoological and botanical gardens in the 11th century BC. In the 2nd century BCE, the Chinese Empress Tanki had a "house of deer" built, and King Wen of Zhou kept a 1,500-acre (6.1 km2) zoo called Ling-Yu, or the Garden of Intelligence. Other well-known collectors of animals included King Solomon of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah, queen Semiramis and king Ashurbanipal of Assyria, and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia. By the 4th century BCE, zoos existed in most of the Greek city states; Alexander the Great is known to have sent animals that he found on his military expeditions back to Greece. The Roman emperors kept private collections of animals for study or for use in the arena, the latter faring notoriously poorly. The 19th-century historian W. E. H. Lecky wrote of the Roman games, first held in 366 BCE:

At one time, a bear and a bull, chained together, rolled in fierce combat across the sand ... Four hundred bears were killed in a single day under Caligula ... Under Nero, four hundred tigers fought with bulls and elephants. In a single day, at the dedication of the Colosseum by Titus, five thousand animals perished. Under Trajan ... lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, giraffes, bulls, stags, even crocodiles and serpents were employed to give novelty to the spectacle ...

Henry I of England kept a collection of animals at his palace in Woodstock, which reportedly included lions, leopards, and camels. The most prominent collection in medieval England was in the Tower of London, created as early as 1204 by King John I.

Henry III received a wedding gift in 1235 of three leopards from Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and in 1264, the animals were moved to the Bulwark, renamed the Lion Tower, near the main western entrance of the Tower. It was opened to the public during the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century.[6] During the 18th century, the price of admission was three half-pence, or the supply of a cat or dog for feeding to the lions. The animals were moved to the London Zoo when it opened.

Enlightenment era

The oldest zoo in the world still in existence is the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria. It was constructed by Adrian van Stekhoven in 1752 at the order of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, husband of Maria Theresa of Austria, to serve as an imperial menagerie as part of Schönbrunn Palace. The menagerie was initially reserved for the viewing pleasure of the imperial family and the court, but was made accessible to the public in 1765.

In 1775, a zoo was founded in Madrid, and in 1795, the zoo inside the Jardin des Plantes in Paris was founded by Jacques-Henri Bernardin, with animals from the royal menagerie at Versailles, primarily for scientific research and education. The Kazan Zoo, the first zoo in Russia was founded in 1806 by the Professor of Kazan State University Karl Fuchs.

The modern zoo

Until the early 19th century, the function of the zoo was often to symbolize royal power, like King Louis XIV's menagerie at Versailles. The modern zoo that emerged in the early 19th century at London, Paris and Dublin, was focused on providing educational exhibits to the public for entertainment and inspiration.[7]

A growing fascination for natural history and zoology, coupled with the tremendous expansion in the urbanization of London, led to a heightened demand for a greater variety of public forms of entertainment to be made available. The need for public entertainment, as well as the requirements of scholarly research, came together in the founding of the first modern zoos.

The Zoological Society of London was founded in 1826 by Stamford Raffles and established the London Zoo in Regent's Park two years later in 1828.[9] At its founding, it was the world's first scientific zoo.[10] Originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study, it was eventually opened to the public in 1847.[10] The Zoo was located in Regent's Park - then undergoing development at the hands of the architect John Nash. What set the London zoo apart from its predecessors was its focus on society at large. The zoo was established in the middle of a city for the public, and its layout was designed to cater for the large London population. The London zoo was widely copied as the archetype of the public city zoo.[11] In 1853, the Zoo opened the world's first public aquarium.

Dublin Zoo was opened in 1831 by members of the medical profession interested in studying animals while they were alive and more particularly getting hold of them when they were dead.[12] The first zoological garden in Australia was Melbourne Zoo in 1860. In the same year, Central Park Zoo, the first public zoo in the United States, opened in New York, although in 1859, the Philadelphia Zoological Society had made an effort to establish a zoo, but delayed opening it until 1874 because of the American Civil War.

In 1907, the German entrepreneur Carl Hagenbeck founded the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Stellingen, now a quarter of Hamburg. His zoo was a radical departure from the layout of the zoo that had been established in 1828. It was the first zoo to use open enclosures surrounded by moats, rather than barred cages, to better approximate animals' natural environments.[13] He also set up mixed-species exhibits and based the layout on the different organizing principle of geography, as opposed to taxonomy.

When ecology emerged as a matter of public interest in the 1970s, a few zoos began to consider making conservation their central role, with Gerald Durrell of the Jersey Zoo, George Rabb of Brookfield Zoo, and William Conway of the Bronx Zoo (Wildlife Conservation Society) leading the discussion. From then on, zoo professionals became increasingly aware of the need to engage themselves in conservation programs, and the American Zoo Association soon said that conservation was its highest priority. Because they wanted to stress conservation issues, many large zoos stopped the practice of having animals perform tricks for visitors. The Detroit Zoo, for example, stopped its elephant show in 1969, and its chimpanzee show in 1983, acknowledging that the trainers had probably abused the animals to get them to perform.

Whipsnade Park in Bedfordshire, England, was opened in 1931 as the first safari park. It allowed visitors to drive through the enclosures and come into close proximity to the animals.

Unfortunately, mass destruction of wildlife habitat has yet to cease all over the world and many species such as elephants, big cats, penguins, tropical birds, primates, rhinos, exotic reptiles, and many others are in danger of dying out. Many of today's zoos hope to stop or slow the decline of many endangered species. Many zoos see their primary purpose as breeding endangered species in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild. Modern zoos also aim to help teach visitors the importance on animal conservation, often through letting visitors witness the animals firsthand. Some critics and the majority of animal rights activists say that zoos, no matter what their intentions are, or how noble they are, are immoral and serve as nothing but to fulfill human leisure at the expense of the animals (which is an opinion that has shown growth over the years). However, zoo advocates argue that their efforts make a difference in wildlife conservation and education.

Human exhibits

Human beings were sometimes displayed in cages along with non-human animals, to illustrate the supposed differences between people of European and non-European origin. In September 1906, William Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo in New York—with the agreement of Madison Grant, head of the New York Zoological Society—had Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, displayed in a cage with the chimpanzees, then with an orangutan named Dohong, and a parrot. The exhibit was intended as an example of the "missing link" between the orangutan and white man. It triggered protests from the city's clergymen, but the public reportedly flocked to see it.[14]

Human beings were also displayed in cages during the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, and as late as 1958 in a "Congolese village" display at Expo '58 in Brussels.[16]


Zoo animals live in enclosures that often attempt to replicate their natural habitats or behavioral patterns, for the benefit of both the animals and visitors. Nocturnal animals are often housed in buildings with a reversed light-dark cycle, i.e. only dim white or red lights are on during the day so the animals are active during visitor hours, and brighter lights on at night when the animals sleep. Special climate conditions may be created for animals living in extreme environments, such as penguins. Special enclosures for birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, fish, and other aquatic life forms have also been developed. Some zoos have walk-through exhibits where visitors enter enclosures of non-aggressive species, such as lemurs, marmosets, birds, lizards, and turtles. Visitors are asked to keep to paths and avoid showing or eating foods that the animals might snatch.

Safari park

Some zoos keep animals in larger, outdoor enclosures, confining them with moats and fences, rather than in cages. Safari parks, also known as zoo parks and lion farms, allow visitors to drive through them and come in close proximity to the animals. Sometimes, visitors are able to feed animals through the car windows. The first safari park was Whipsnade Park in Bedfordshire, England, opened by the Zoological Society of London in 1931 which today (2014) covers 600 acres (2.4 km²). Since the early 1970s, a 1,800 acre (7 km²) park in the San Pasqual Valley near San Diego has featured the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, run by the Zoological Society of San Diego. One of two state-supported zoo parks in North Carolina is the 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.[17] The 500-acre (2.0 km2) Werribee Open Range Zoo in Melbourne, Australia, displays animals living in an artificial savannah.


The first public aquarium was opened in London Zoo in 1853. This was followed by the opening of public aquaria in continental Europe (e.g. Paris 1859, Hamburg 1864, Berlin 1869, Brighton 1872) and the United States (e.g. Boston 1859, Washington 1873, San Francisco Woodward's Garden 1873, New York Battery Park 1896).

Roadside zoos

Roadside zoos are found throughout North America, particularly in remote locations. They are often small, for-profit zoos, often intended to attract visitors to some other facility, such as a gas station. The animals may be trained to perform tricks, and visitors are able to get closer to them than in larger zoos.[19] Since they are sometimes less regulated, roadside zoos are often subject to accusations of neglect[20] and cruelty.[21]

In June 2014 the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the Iowa-based roadside Cricket Hollow Zoo for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to provide proper care for its animals.[22] Since filing the lawsuit, ALDF has obtained records from investigations conducted by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services; these records show that the zoo is also violating the Animal Welfare Act.[4]

Petting zoos

A petting zoo, also called petting farms or children's zoos, features a combination of domestic animals and wild species that are docile enough to touch and feed. To ensure the animals' health, the food is supplied by the zoo, either from vending machines or a kiosk nearby.

Animal theme parks

An animal theme park is a combination of an amusement park and a zoo, mainly for entertaining and commercial purposes. Marine mammal parks such as Sea World and Marineland are more elaborate dolphinariums keeping whales, and containing additional entertainment attractions. Another kind of animal theme park contains more entertainment and amusement elements than the classical zoo, such as a stage shows, roller coasters, and mythical creatures. Some examples are Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa, Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire, England and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California .jjdisk