Melbourne Zoo is a zoo in Melbourne, Australia. It is located within Royal Park in Parkville, approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of the centre of Melbourne. It is the primary zoo serving Melbourne.
The zoo contains more than 320 animal species from Australia and around the world, and is accessible via Royal Park station on the Upfield railway line, and is also accessible via tram routes 58 and 19, as well as by bicycle on the Capital City Trail. Bicycles are not allowed inside the zoo itself.
The Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens is a full institutional member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
Melbourne Zoo is Australia's oldest zoo and was modelled on London Zoo. The zoo was opened on 6 October 1862 at the Royal Park site of 55-acre (22 ha) on land donated by the City of Melbourne. Before this, animals were housed at the botanical gardens in Melbourne.
Initially, the zoo was important for the acclimatisation of domestic animals recovering from their long trip to Australia. It was only with the appointment of Albert Alexander Cochrane Le Souef in 1870 that more exotic animals were procured for public display, and the gardens and picnic areas were developed.
Visitors can see historical cages, including the heritage listed Elephant House, which has been renovated and adapted for use for customers paying to sleep overnight in tents at the zoo in famous Roar and Snore evenings.
These evenings allow the public to see some of the nocturnal animals at the zoo in the evening, guided tours by experienced camp hosts. One of the most famous exhibits was Queenie, the elephant.
The zoo is set among flower gardens and picnic areas. Many animals are now organised in bioclimatic zones: African rainforest featuring gorillas, mandrills, pigmy hippos and parrots; Asian Rainforest with tigers and otters; and the Australian bush with koala, kangaroos, emu, echidnas and endangered hairy nose wombats.
Popular exhibits also include the Butterfly House, the excellent flight aviary and the Trail of the Elephants. Melbourne Zoo most recently completed construction and opened its carnivores trail in early 2018.
The zoo includes a large schools section and caters to many school visitors annually, its immensely popular education program encourages young minds to conserve animals.
In 1989, a 35-year-old man died when a lion partially ate him after he entered its pen.
On 15 January 2010, Melbourne Zoo welcomed its first elephant calf, Mali. This is the second elephant calf born in Australia, the first being in Sydney in July 2009. Mali is the first female calf born in Australia and the first calf born via artificial insemination.
Melbourne Zoo commemorated 150 years of operation in 2012, and this was celebrated in an Australian Zoos collector's edition of stamps released by Australia Post in September 2012.
Zoos Victoria administers the Melbourne Zoo and the Werribee Open Range Zoo, which features herbivorous creatures in an open-range setting; and Healesville Sanctuary (formerly the Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary), which exhibits Australian fauna on 175 hectares (430 acres) of bushland.
The three zoos have been collectively trading as Zoos Victoria since 1973, governed by the Zoological Parks and Gardens Board, which operates under the Zoological Parks and Gardens Act 1995.
- Sumatran tiger at the Melbourne Zoo
- Trails of the Elephants: six Asian elephants — females Mek Kapah (the matriarch), Dokkoon, Kulab, Num-oi, Mali (daughter of Dokkoon) and Man Jai (son of Dokkoon), the herd rotates through one of the three paddocks throughout the day. The zoo used to have Ongard (son of Kulab), who is currently in Zoo Miami and an adult bull elephant named Bong Su, who is the patriarch of all the calves’ herd and father; sadly, he died in 2017 due to a long battle with arthritis since 2005. Bong Su arrived at the zoo as a gift from the Sultan of Pahang (on the Malay Peninsula) as an orphan in 1997.
- Butterfly House: a greenhouse-style walk-through exhibit for tropical butterflies.
- Orangutan Sanctuary: Home for the Zoo's two families of orangutans (one consisting of pure Sumatran orangutans and the other of Sumatran-Bornean hybrids).
- Asian rainforest: the original portion of the Asian rainforest adjoins Trail of the Elephants and Orangutan sanctuary. Includes enclosures for Sumatran tigers, Asian small-clawed otter and two small aviaries for Asian birds.
- Australian Outback: features kangaroo island kangaroos, emus, southern hairy-nosed wombats, koalas and a variety of small bird aviaries.
- Great Flight Aviary: a large free-flight aviary within the Australian outback exhibit dating from the 1930s. Visitors walk along a boardwalk through three different bioregions representing an Australian rainforest, wetlands and bushland. Significant species include southern cassowaries, brolga, royal spoonbills, eclectus parrots, and red-tailed black cockatoos.
- Lion Gorge: Home to male lions born at Werribee zoo, African wild dogs, snow leopards, coatis, sumatran tigers and Tasmanian devils.
- Wild Sea: This $20 million development houses long-nosed fur seals, little penguins, Fiordland penguins, Australian pelicans and Australian fur seals. With underwater sounds and a projector screen coupled with beautiful lighting effects, it has a calming touch of realism. Little penguins and seals can be viewed from above water level and below.
- Reptile house: contains a variety of Australian and exotic reptiles.
- African rainforest: This walk opens with the walkthrough 'lemur island' exhibit, home to a troop of male ring-tailed lemurs. The major exhibit at the centre of this area is for western lowland gorillas.
- Treetop apes and monkeys: A series of netted enclosures viewed through glass windows from an elevated boardwalk. Species currently include white-cheeked gibbons, black-handed spider monkeys and Black-and-white colobus, Cotton-top tamarins. This walk follows on from the African rainforest.
- Baboon Lookout: Houses the zoo's troop of hamadryas baboons.
- Growing wild: Houses meerkats and aldabra giant tortoises.
- Main trail: Home to Red pandas, Siamangs, Zebras, Giraffes, Malayan tapirs, Collared peccaries, Aldabra giant tortoises and Platypuses.
Things Often Overlooked At Melbourne Zoo
Melbourne Zoo is a fantastic zoo filled with many animals that pull big crowds, like elephants, lions and orangutans. But the less popular attractions are also well worth a look.
The first animal that is commonly overlooked is the golden pheasant. This bird lives in a small enclosure at the beginning of the elephant and tiger trail. Many people miss out on it in the excitement of getting to the larger, more exciting animals, but it is not to be missed. The golden pheasant is possibly the most beautiful bird I have ever laid eyes on, and I assure you that this photo does not do it justice.
The second thing that people will rule out but definitely shouldn't when they check their map initially and plan their day is the Japanese garden. Located just next to the lakeside restaurant, it is the most peaceful part of the zoo. There aren't really any animals to see here, apart from plenty of ducks and the occasional turtle in the lake, but it is great for a quiet break from the screaming hoards in the rest of the zoo.
Meerkat And Giant Tortoise
The third and fourth attractions not to be missed are the new meerkat and giant tortoise enclosures. These are regularly disregarded as there are other meerkats and giant tortoise enclosures in the heart of the zoo.
These are a lot smaller, however, and are not at all as good. The new meerkat one is especially good for small children, with tunnels to crawl through that get them right to the heart of the enclosure and really get amongst the meerkats.
The last enclosure is one that is not so much overlooked as overly rushed, the aviary. This is one of Melbourne Zoo's most popular attractions, but from what I can tell, people rush through it, glancing at the occasional bird, keen to get on to the next exhibit.
This is understandable as there is a lot to do at Melbourne Zoo, and fitting it into one day can be a struggle, but you really need to take your time in the aviary to get the most out of it. Watch the birds fly around, listen to them chirp playfully and enjoy the ducks frolicking in the water.
How to reach Melbourne Zoo
Route 58 between West Coburg and Toorak runs via William Street in the city centre every day, with services as often as every 6 minutes, stopping directly outside Melbourne Zoo at Stop 26. Make sure you travel safely on board.
Trains run from Flinders Street Station on the Upfield line every day, stopping at Royal Park Station - just across the road from Melbourne Zoo's rail gate entrance.
Bus route 505 from Moonee Ponds to Melbourne University stops outside Melbourne Zoo.
Travellers Aid volunteer companions are available during the Easter school holidays to provide assistance and confidence while travelling on public transport to the Zoo.
Travelling from Regional Victoria
V/Line trains run from Geelong, Warrnambool, Ballarat, Maryborough, Ararat, Bendigo, Swan Hill, Echuca, Seymour, Shepparton and Albury, Traralgon, Sale, and many other rural destinations, into the CBD.
The V/Line Family Traveller ticket allows each adult to take up to two children aged between five and 18 at no extra cost.
Visit PTV for an up-to-date tram, train and bus times. (Tip: Use their Journey Planner for public transport directions from anywhere in Victoria. Enter your starting address in the “From” box and enter “Melbourne Zoo” as a landmark in the “To” box).
Travelling by car
Melbourne Zoo is located only minutes north of the city centre at Royal Park and is 20 minutes from Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine).
Car parking is $2 for a five-hour ticket and is run by Melbourne City Council. To use a parking bay reserved for people with disabilities, you will need to display a valid parking permit for people with a disability.
Don't forget to display your parking ticket on your dashboard, as parking officers regularly monitor the area. Download the PayStay App from the App Store or Google Play in advance to skip the queue and pay for parking from your phone.
During peak times, like school and public holidays, we do our best try to get you parked and into the zoo as quickly as possible. Please follow instructions from our parking attendants when it's busy.
Travelling by shuttle
Melbourne City Sightseeing runs a convenient hop-on, hop-off shuttle service that services Melbourne Zoo 10 times a day — no need to book! Convenient stops are located throughout central Melbourne, including Federation Square and Carlton. The shuttle service's Zoo stop is at our main entrance on Elliott Avenue.
Best Time to Visit Melbourne Zoo
The best time to visit the Melbourne zoo is during summer, between the months of January and February. This is because the weather is hot and sunny during this time without being too oppressively hot or extremely cold.
The animals in the zoo are usually in a playful mood and can be seen walking freely in their enclosures and in the wild. Additionally, this type of weather is ideal for sightseeing and enjoying the various tourist attractions the city has to offer.
From November to December, the city experiences extremely hot weather. The outsides are incredibly steamy, so much so that it is not uncommon for some buildings to suffer from power outages because of the extreme heat.
Additionally, the animals may not even come out of their cages and enclosures because of the scorching sun, so your trip may not be successful. And that is why it is not recommended to visit Melbourne Zoo in summer.
During winters, that is, between March and August, the weather drops below zero degrees. The animals retreat to their caves and hiding places to weather the freezing winters. The temperatures tend to go extremely low as soon as the sun goes down. That is why it is not recommended to visit the zoo during these months either.
Between August and October, Australia experiences the monsoon season as the months turn warmer. This is also not a wrong time to visit the city, but you may have to deal with the rains. That is why the ideal time for a trip to the zoo is between January and February.
Four things you didn't know you could do at Melbourne Zoo
Go behind the scenes with tigers
Watching the Sumatran tigers in their enclosure is one of the most surreal and breathtaking experiences at Melbourne Zoo. Now, you can get even closer to these critically endangered animals with a behind the scenes experience with a zookeeper.
You’ll learn about how zookeepers care for the tigers, head into the exhibit (while the tiger is safely in a separate area) and set up enrichment activities.
Then, you’ll watch as the tiger enjoys the treats and scents you’ve left out for them. The best part? Your experience contributes to the work of Zoos Victoria to fight the extinction of these beautiful animals in the wild.
Get up close to meerkats
The Melbourne Zoo’s big, bustling meerkat family is one of the most popular attractions with kids and adults alike – and we’re not surprised.
Now, you can get even closer to these frisky little creatures with the help of a zookeeper. Learn more about these entertaining animals, and have your camera ready for the ultimate meerkat selfie.
For more close-up animal encounters, visit the website: you could also spend time with kangaroos, giraffes and giant tortoises.
Be kissed by a seal
No Melbourne Zoo visit is complete without paying a visit to the Australian Fur Seals. These cheeky and playful seals enjoy a happy life at the Zoo, showing off their aquatic skills to visitors watching from the underwater viewing area and basking in the sun.
Happily, these seals are increasing in numbers in the wild on the south-eastern coast of Australia, but your visit helps Melbourne Zoo to protect these unique animals from dangers further, like getting entangled from nets and plastic dumped in waterways.
Spend the night at Melbourne Zoo
Sleepover at the zoo with Melbourne Zoo’s ‘Roar ’n’ Snore’ experience. You’ll be sleeping in the Historic Elephant Exhibit (they’ve since moved house), which has been revitalised to become a comfortable camping ground.
Wine and dine while you take in the sights, smells and sounds of the Zoo after dark, where many animals are at their most active. Later, listen to the stories of life at the Zoo from your camp hosts. Your next morning begins with bird and gibbon calls and ends with admission to the Zoo, for another round of animal encounters.
Food Facilities in Zoo
Cafes and kiosks
You can visit one of the cafes or kiosks in the zoo if you want to have a meal within the zoo premises or take away a special treat back home.
There are plenty of options available at these establishments, including some samples of the most delicate pastries and sweets, along with savoury dishes, in Melbourne.
For instance, the Lakeside Café offers some vegan dishes and chef specials that will make your mouth water. The Giraffe Lookout Café, on the other hand, is perfect for getting some spicy BBQ ransky while watching the lovely giraffes. There is also a South-East Asian restaurant at the Elephant Kiosk.
Catering for Groups
If you are travelling with a large group, you can arrange your tasty takeaway lunch bag for the entire party at one of the group catering restaurants in the zoo.
Pre-ordered lunch boxes are available for groups of 10 or more people. This will make your entire trip to the zoo extraordinarily convenient and stress-free, not to mention the delicious food that you will get to feast on.
These lunches are packed in biodegradable boxes. The lunchbox contents will include a sandwich or a baguette, a small salad, some nuts, a piece of fruit, a treat from the bakery in the zoo and a drink. All you have to do is pre-order your lunch bag, and then you can easily enjoy the food at one of the picnic tables or out on a cozy blanket on the lawn.
It should be noted that these lunch packs can only be ordered seven days in advance, and you will need to order for at least ten people in one order. You can also get low-gluten options on request.
Picnic facilities and Pavilion hire
If you are organising an office retreat in the Melbourne Zoo, you can hire a section of the lawn or the pavilion for lunch. The former can handle up to 150 people, while the latter only has room for 50 people.
Both Melbourne and Sydney zoos are good, but since you are travelling from overseas, and have a choice, Sydney wins because it is so unique. Taronga Zoo in Sydney has a fabulous location on a hillside overlooking the Harbour, so you can see the animals and have great views at the same time.
The Verdict: Taronga really does live up to it's “zoo with a view” reputation–the animals get some seriously prime Sydney real estate and it's a fun and easy day trip from the city. Taronga boasts a wider variety of animals while Australia Zoo focuses mainly on, you guessed it, Australian animals.