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Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is located in Washington, USA. The zoo has been operating since 1905.

The zoo is a facility of the Zoological and Environmental Education Division (ZEED) of Metro Parks Tacoma. It is visited by 700,000 visitors each year.

It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA)


Wild Wonders Outdoor Theatre

Take a seat and be entertained by the amazing animals demonstrating their behaviors in the zoo’s presentations at this theatre.


Located on the zoo’s ground’s is a carousel on which people can take a ride.

Marine Discovery Centre

Here you can get hands on with sea creatures in the touch tank and explore a range of other activities related to marine animals




United States

Year Opened


Land Size

12ha (29acres)

Number of Animals


Number of Species



The zoo opened in 1905 in Point Defiance Park. During 1936 a saltwater aquarium was built on the concrete pavilion over commencement bay.

During 1954 the zoo built a $123,000 animal house. This was home to cougars, lions, jaguars and white cheeked gibbons.

By 1963 the aquarium was relocated to the zoo. In 1965 Tacomans supported the push to build an elephant house for 3-year-old elephant, Cindy who captivated the community.

By 1976 the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium was in some places literally falling apart and many of the enclosures were too small or dangerous.

A $7 million bond was issued in 1978 that allowed the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium to overcome these issues and build better displays for the animals.

In 1979 the zoo chose to focus on displaying animals around the Pacific Rim. This included removing some animals from countries not found in this area and replacing them with others such as Asian lions replacing their African cousins.

During 1981-82 the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium built the rocky shores exhibit. It housed dolphins, walruses, sea-birds, seals and sea lions. During 1984 the zoo acquired three belugas from Canada in cooperation with their government. These replaced the dolphins which had become ill and been moved to other zoos for their health. They formed the basis for the zoo’s breeding program.

During 1987 the zoo completed its first release of red wolves in to the wild. They were extinct in the wild prior to this.

During 1988 the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium first showed zoo lights. It depicts animals and scenes in Christmas lights.

The South Pacific Aquarium was opened in 1989.

A $2.3 million elephant exhibit was opened in 1992.

1996 saw the zoo begin to be managed under a partnership between the Metropolitan Park District who owned the zoo and the Point Defiance Zoological Society who took over managing it.

During 2004 the innovative Asian Forest Sanctuary opened as well as the $3 million Wild Wonders Outdoor theatre.

In 2005 the $3 million kid’s zone opened which was improved with a $4 million expansion in 2008.

During September 2018 the North Pacific aquarium was replaced by a new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Star Animals

Dub Dub

Dub Dub was a harbour seal who came to the aquarium in 1942 before it moved to the zoo. He moved to the Point Defiance Zoo with the aquarium during 1963 and lived their till 1972 when he passed away. At that point he was the oldest harbour seal in captivity.


Cindy was an elephant who arrived at the zoo during 1965 after being donated by a shopping centre owner. During 1982 she was deemed too unruly to handle and sent away to the San Diego Wild Animal Park for breeding. In 1988 the San Diego Wild Animal Park deemed her behavior unmanageable too and stated that she must return to Point Defiance. By 1989 she injured a keeper in San Diego and the zoo agreed to her return. She moved to Woodland Park Zoo in Washington in 1990 for two years while her new home was built. It opened in 1991 and Cindy moved there during 1992. The zoo decided to cease working in close contact with their elephants and the success of this system meant they could handle more of the country’s unruly elephant’s. Cindy passed away in 2003 with the elephant barn renamed in her honor during 2004.


E.T the walrus was found in Alaska by oil workers in 1982. He was starving at the time so was brought to the zoo to be raised there. A pair of females later joined him. He passed away at the age of 33 during 2015.

Main Exhibits

Asian Forest Sanctuary

This exhibit recreates the Asian Forest where tigers stalk amongst bamboo forests, Malayan tapirs bathe in streams and ponds and the elusive clouded leopard emerges from behind vegetation. The exhibit is also the home of siamang’s, white cheeked gibbons, small clawed otters and anoa.

Nearby is the home of the zoo’s Asian elephant herd.

South Pacific Aquarium

This aquarium transports you to the South Pacific with 5 species of shark and dozens of tropical fish.

Pacific Seas Aquarium

Opened in 2018 this new aquarium allows you to get eye-to-eye with sharks, turtles, rays and more.

Stingray Cove

Located in the South Pacific Aquarium is Stingray Cove where visitors can view 5 species of stingray and gets hands on in a safe manner.

Rocky Shores

Resembling the coastline near Cape Florey, Washington, Rocky Shores is home to walruses, harbour seals, sea otters, common mures and tufted puffins. You can view the animals below and above water which allows you to get incredibly up close to the animals.

Arctic Tundra

The Arctic tundra is home to reindeer, musk ox, Arctic foxes and polar bears. The exhibit resembles Point Hope in Alaska. The polar exhibit won the 1982 exhibit achievement award from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association for the best new exhibit of the year.

Red Wolf Woods

Numbering just 14 in 1980 when the Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium began their breeding program this species has seen its population grow till 250 but it is still threatened.

Kids Zone

Kids Zone allows kids to climb, hop and perch just like animals before getting up close and personal to goats and other species in contact junction. Animal Avenue allows people to meet a range of species including hissing cockroaches, lemurs and meerkats.

Budgie Buddies

At the budgie buddies exhibit you can enter the home of their colorful birds and potentially even feed them.


Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium website –

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