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Adelaide Zoo

The Adelaide Zoo is located in Adelaide, South Australia. It has been operating since 1883 and is the second oldest zoo in Australia.

The zoo is operated by the Zoological Society of South Australia (Zoos SA) who also operate Monarto Safari Park.


The Acclimatisation Society of SA which constructed the zoo was formed in 1878. Their first effort was to erect an aviary in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens during this year. In 1881 they sold this to the botanic gardens for £25. An inquiry was made that year as to whether the gardens would part with 5 acres of land so a zoological garden could be established. They also sought the animals that were housed in the gardens at the time. They were denied the land but if land could be found elsewhere they were allowed the animals.

Again in early March 1882 the zoo made another request for land but this was denied once again. They tried again at the end of that month after their name had been changed to the Acclimatisation and Zoological Society. This was once again denied. In May 1882 they sent a petition with 830 signatures to the gardens asking for land for the zoo. Once again this was denied by the gardens.

Adelaide Zoo



South Australia, Australia

Year Opened


Land Size

8ha (19.8acres)

Number of Animals


Number of Species


Finally the zoo succeeded when it moved a motion through the House of Assembly to acquire the land. The reluctant botanic gardens provided the land. Finally on 23rd May 1883 Adelaide Zoo opened. It was only the second zoo in Australia. It was modelled on European zoos such as London.

In 1937 the zoo was granted royal charter by King George VI. This led to a name change to the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia.

During the zoo’s history five of their structures have been placed on the Register of State Heritage Items and the City of Adelaide’s Register of Heritage Items.

Built in 1883 were the front entry gates and walls as well as the head keeper’s cottage. Then in 1884 Sir Thomas Elder presented a rotunda to the zoo which sits at the centre of the zoo. This is believed to be the largest of its king in South Australia.

During 1887 the Directors dwelling was built. Until the 1970s it housed the director of the zoo. In 2004 it was renamed Minchin house in honour of the long association between the zoo and the Minchin family. R E Minchin was the first director of the zoo and his son and grandson followed him. They gave 61 years of service to the zoo between them.

During 1900 the elephant house was built. It reflects the ‘Victorian’ approach of housing animals in habitats which reflect the architecture of their homeland. It is the only ‘Indian-style’ temple in South Australia.’ Adelaide Zoo ceased keeping elephants in 1991 when the last resident, Samorn was moved to their sister site, Monarto Zoo.

Not on the heritage list but still of importance is the flamingo habitat which opened in 1885 and is still in the same spot.

The zoo still retains some of its botanic features and a Morteon Bay Fig planted in 1877 still stands in the zoo.

In 2009 the zoo accquired a pair of giant pandas from the Chinese government. Originally held on a 10 year lease this has now been extended and they will be staying in Adelaide till at least 2024. They are currently the only pandas in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Star Animals

Wang Wang and Funi

Adelaide Zoo is home to two giant pandas that arrived from China in 2009. The two pandas live in a special exhibit built specially for them. They went on exhibit in December 2009. These two pandas are the only two currently residing in Australia.

Karta the orangutan

Karta the orangutan resides at Adelaide Zoo. In 2009 she attempted to escape her enclosure. To do this she placed a stick across the electric fence in her enclosure and this short circuted the system. Shen then made a ladder out of vegetation to climb out of the exhibit. After half an hour out of the enclosure she returned herself back to the enclosure. Unfortunately Karta passed away in 2017 due to complications during child birth.

Greater the Flamingo

Greater was one of two flamingos that lived at the zoo for many years. He was the second last flamingo to live in Australia. In 2008 he was violently attacked by a number of teenagers. He was one of the world’s oldest flamingos when he passed away at 83 years old in 2014.


Nature's Playground

Nature's playground is a large play area based on nature play principles. It features a range of slides, swings, water play areas and view the zoo from atop the platforms.

A giant panda in the bamboo forest exhibit

Photo Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts

Main Exhibits

Bamboo Forest

The bamboo forest is the zoo’s panda habitat and is home to the zoo’s 2 giant panda’s Wang Wand and Funi and the zoo’s red panda’s. The exhibit first opened to the public on December 14 2009.


Immersion is the zoo’s South East Asian rainforest habitat and was built in 2 stages. Stage one was built in 1995 and has an aviary, sunbears, tapir & leaf monkeys in the same habitat, white cheeked gibbons and siamangs. Stage two opened in 2006 and is home to Sumatran orangutans and tigers.


Adelaide Zoo. 2020. Nature's Playground At Adelaide Zoo – Begin Your Outside Adventure. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2020]. 2020. Zoo Orang-Utan Karta Dies After Giving Birth | The West Australian. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2020].

Los Angeles Times. 2020. 64 Animals Killed In Break-In At Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2020].

Zoos SA. 2020. History – Zoos SA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2020].

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