Discover the Largest Zoo in the World

Largest Zoo in the World
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Discover the Largest Zoo in the World

Visit the World’s Largest Conservation of Wildlife!

Ever wonder which is the largest zoo in the world? Welcome to the ranking of biggest zoos in the U.S. and the world by size in acres. Searching and comparing lists upon lists of the largest zoos in the world, I’ve narrowed the competition down to the top 5 largest zoos in the U.S. and 5 best zoos in the world. As for the title of ‘the largest zoo in the world’, it is currently held by the North Carolina Zoo. But before we read all about it and the many other zoos that deserve to be mentioned, let’s find out why zoos exist and why we visit them in the first place.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Why Visit the Zoo in the First Place?
 Conservation
Research
Education
II. The Largest Zoos in the U.S.
 5. Bronx Zoo
4. Minnesota Zoo
3. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
1. North Carolina Zoo
III. The Best Zoos in the World – Honorable Mentions
 Henry Doorly Zoo
 Singapore Zoo
IV. The Largest Zoo in the World
 North Carolina Zoo
V. Main Takeaways (Summary)
References

I. Why Visit the Zoo?

“I don’t study to learn more, but to ignore less” – Juana Inés de la Cruz

You don’t go to the zoo to memorize the number of animals, the animals’ scientific names or the animals’ respective habitats. You go to this reservoir of creatures to be aware of your environment and what’s out there. Zoos are not just mere attractions or field trip venues, they are a place with a cause- to conserve, for research and for learning.

Conservation

Zoos aren’t built for the purpose of attracting tourists and making money (but if they were, it isn’t a zoo but a prison for unhappy animals), it is built to act as a safe haven for animals to stay away from dangers of the wildlife and possible extinction. The conservation of animals sends a message to its visitors that animals are important and deserve attention.

Research

If these animals were placed in a reservoir in the first place, then there must be a reason they need recusing and human intervention. Well, that’s where researching on these poor souls come in handy. Research on these animals’ lifestyles and habitats would bring us a step closer to finding a solution to making the world a safer place for them. Extinction of species and their decline in number doesn’t just randomly happen. There may be an external factor that we don’t know about yet. Si brush up on your researching skills and put on your thinking hats, you’re about to help get these animals their home back!

Education

‘To know and be aware’. It’s that simple. To know and understand that these zoos bring animals in danger and are facing extinction and exhibit them to state that, “Yes, these animals exist and they need our help.” If you need more proof, all you have to do is visit your local zoo that won’t tell you otherwise.

With the zoo being a refuge, it gives you the opportunity to see the true state of the other organisms of the world and the opportunity to give them a hand to make their stay on earth easier and longer. Now back to the real purpose of this article, naming the best and largest zoos there is to house the animals in need. This article enumerates the largest zoos in the world and in the United States in terms of the zoo’s number of acres it takes up.

II. The Largest Zoos in the U.S.

When looking at the largest zoos in the US, we’re examining the size of the zoos in terms of land. The more space and facilities zoos can have to truly give the animals their own breathing space, appropriate space to live and proper rehabilitation, the more likely it is a zoo, not a mere attraction spot. That is why the top 5 largest zoos in the U.S. will always promote animals’ well-being and recreating the animals’ natural habitat.

5. Bronx Zoo

largest zoo in the world
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Acres: 265 acres

Number of Animals: 6,000 animals

Number of Species: 700 species

Location: 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460-1090

The Bronx Zoo may be last on the list, but it actually is the largest urban zoo in the U.S. It consists of interactive exhibits, wildlife experiences such as feeding and petting the animals, educational programs and occasional events. I have to admit that this zoo focuses more on getting to know the animals and their habitats firsthand, but that’s not all they facilitate! They have a modern zoo animal hospital with a full-time veterinarian staff! They also mentioned in their website that, “Part of our mission is to connect visitors to wildlife and inspire them to join our conservation work” (Bronx Zoo website).

For all of you who prefer to make friends and get your hands dirty by experiencing the wildlife instead of simply observing exhibits and looking at animals from afar, then Bronx Zoo is the right place for you!

4. Minnesota Zoo

largest zoo in the world
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Acres: 485 acres

Number of Animals: 2,351 animals (as of 2012)

Number of Species: 447 species (as of 2012)

Location: 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, MN 55124

Although it is only open from 10am until 4pm and tickets must be bought and reserved online, the Minnesota Zoo’s aim is “to connect people, animals, and the natural world to save wildlife” (Minnesota Zoo, 2020). As for the zoo’s credentials, it is an accredited institution of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is an institutional member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. So, it might be a bit of a hassle to buy tickets ahead of time and to be keen on time but what the zoo has to offer is astounding. They aim to save moose, bison, endangered prairie butterflies, and wild animals worldwide. They hold cooperative breeding programs and conservation action campaigns. Their conservation projects have even been awarded with Edward H. Bean Awards, AZA International Conservation Awards, CITES Tiger Task Team Commendation, 21st Century Tiger Conservation Award, and International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators Award.

The Minnesota Zoo takes pride in its programs and campaigns to save the wildlife. And this is very evident in their accomplishments and awards. Now, go on to their website at https://mnzoo.org/planavisit-2/ to reserve your ticket and then head on to 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, MN 55124 right away!

3. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Largest Zoo in the World
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Acres: 580 acres

Number of Animals: more than 10,000

Number of Species: over 600 species

Location: 4850 Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065

“Lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife” (Columbus Zoo and Aquarium website, 2014).

Remember how I told you that zoos educate the community? Well, the many programs Columbus Zoo and Aquarium does exactly that! It doesn’t matter what your age, there is a program for everyone. These are summer camp for all you kids and teens would want to be one with nature, family and adult programs, educator resources for teachers and instructional designers on the subject of the environment and nature, camp-in overnights for those who want to check it off their bucket list, scouts for those who want to earn badges for doing nature-based activities, scholarships for those pursing a degree, career exploration and zoo internships for those pursing a nature-based job, and digital learning for those stuck at home yet are hungry to learn and help the wildlife! You might think this place is more of a school than a zoo. So, let’s get to the animals and wildlife part of the zoo.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium takes rescuing animals in danger earnestly. They had taken care of and rescued mountain gorillas, endangered giant pandas and manatees in the past. They have also worked with the Partners In Conservation (PIC) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Manatee Rehabilitation and Recovery Program. All this shows the intensity of the zoo’s philosophy and purpose to preserve wildlife. Their dedication oozes as they devoted “$4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation efforts annually around the world, most recently 70 projects in 30 countries.”

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium may not have the largest land for its conservation animals, but there is no doubt that they give it their all to make sure endangered and harmed animals have a place to stay and survive in.

2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Largest Zoo in the World
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Acres: 580 acres

Number of Animals: more than 2,000 animals

Number of Species: 300 species

Location: 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32830-8410

Who would’ve thought that Disney World was up for the competition for the title of ‘the largest zoo in the United States’? You did? Well, congratulations! You’re in for both a fun ride and an inspirational experience. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park was not built only to give its visitors and tourists a great time, but also to be a zoo- to house and take care of the animals. It may be the second largest in the country, but it is one of the largest animal theme parks in the world.

This park has exhibits, tours, lives shows and thrilling rides all centered on the idea of exploring and learning about our environment in both the past and present! Disney’s Animal Kingdom isn’t your average zoo, it is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, deeming it legitimate. Your experience here will allow you to enjoy a visit to the wildlife in a very exciting and interactive way.

Although this theme park does majorly focus on Disney creations, it is still serious on conserving and caring for animal species. And even if you do enjoy your trip around Disney’s Animal Kingdom, don’t forget that the wildlife exhibited are sending the message that animal lives and diversity does matter.

1. North Carolina Zoo

Largest Zoo in the World
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Acres: 2600 acres

Number of Animals: 1,800 individual animals 

Number of Species: more than 200 species

Location: 4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro, NC 27205

I’ll leave out most of its description for later. For now, all you need to know that this dominatingly massive zoo doesn’t come close to the other zoos on this list because it is almost thrice as big as the second zoo on this list. And as I said, the more space there is for the zoo, the more equip it is to provide animals a close-to-the-original home. It’s as if they brought a piece of land from their wildlife into the zoo!

III. The Best Zoos in the World – Honorable Mentions

Instead of fishing out the largest zoos, lets turn our attention to the best zoos that have some cool features and systems that might perk your interest and maybe sway you to check them out firsthand as they promise to give you the best experience in a zoo!

The TripAdvisor website deemed Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, as the world’s best zoo in 2014. This decision was based on the “quantity and quality of reviews for zoos and aquariums worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period” (Thompson, C., 2014). Basically, it was the best because it was the most reviewed and best reviewed zoo within a year’s time. As for a more personal selection, I think that the Singapore Zoo deserves to be categorized as one of the best zoos in the world because the place practically screams ‘interactivity’! It has an outdoor feast at with wildlife around you, an internationally acclaimed and award-winning programme that lets you walk and be with orangutans. They even have a place called Kidzworld where children and families can play at the water playground, go through the rope course and have pony rides.

Now, enough filler and more content! Let’s move on to the topic that you’re here for!

IV. The Largest Zoo in the World

The North Carolina Zoo – “The world’s largest natural habitat zoo” (North Carolina Zoo Map, 2020)

Acres: 2600 acres

Number of Animals: 1,800 individual animals 

Number of Species: more than 200 species

Location: 4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro, NC 27205

For such a simple-sounding name, who would’ve thought that it is the largest zoo in the world! And yes, the U.S. claims victory for having the biggest zoo on the face of the earth! Huzzah! Now, lets see what else we need to celebrate about as this zoo doesn’t only own a huge chunk of land.

As the subheading indicates, this humungous natural habitat zoo aims to bring the wildlife into the zoo as is. Minus everything dangerous that may harm the animals, of course. This zoo is state-supported and is an agency of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty much as high credentials can go for a zoo. Let’s now talk about the zoo from a bird’s eye view.

The North Carolina Zoo allows visitors to see the wild animals living in natural settings, to experience many interactive activities for family bonding and to reflection on wildlife, and nature-based, educational programs and camps. The exhibits include a large variety of animals and plants for the main purpose of conservation. This zoo may be conserving the animal’s lives and their species, but they’re doing a mighty fine duty in giving these animals plenty of space to roam freely and live as they would in the wildlife. Speaking of the animals’ habitats, they are either represent Africa, North America, the Desert and an Aviary. The exhibits and wildlife representing Africa (i.e. chimpanzees, giraffes, gorillas, zebras, elephants, etc.) is more like a safari tour. While the exhibits based on North America wildlife (i.e. fish, bears, wolves, swamps, etc.) is more of a forest setting. The desert exhibit glass-domed building that has free-flight birds, plenty of desert animals, plants that don’t nee too much watering, and the road runner from the Looney Tunes show. Well, at least his specie is there.

Let’s move on to the animal care and rehabilitation the zoo provides for their 1,800 animals. North Caroline Zoo’s “passionate team of highly skilled animal care & animal health professionals” do daily “…close observation, feeding nutritional and well-balanced diets, cleaning, providing enriched and stimulating environments for our animals, training our animals to voluntarily participate in husbandry and medical procedures, ensuring their environment is safe & secure, implementing preventive health care, routine health check-ups and medical procedures” (North Carolina Zoo website, 2020).

Question their tactics all you want, but there is no doubt that these animals are getting the best care and health services available. As for animals that are hurt or wounded, the Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of North Carolina Zoo has got them covered. Although the staff are trained zoo volunteers, interns, and limited Zoo personnel. They’re the people you run to if you see any type of distress in the animals. The zoo is supposed to be a safe haven for all animals, and they definitely want to keep it that way.

Now, if you still have some doubts on the greatness of the North Carolina Zoo, you could make your way to 4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro, North Carolina and make your own judgements on the efforts of the state and the zoo to keep all these animals and plants alive, growing and healthy. But do remember to bring some cash for the ticket to get in and that the zoo is only open from 9 in the morning until 5 in the late afternoon.

V. Main Takeaways (Summary)

Now you’re mentally ready and equip to head to these zoos (or any zoos for that matter) and see these exhibits and animals through a different and new kind of lens with an open mind. We’re glad we could share this information with you about the largest zoo in the world, as well as some of the other massive zoos. In case you need a quick recap before you go, this is just your luck as I have one right here:

The reason you need to visit and support zoos are:

  • To conserve animals’ life and their species from dangers and worse, extinction.
  • To conduct research on what drove them to distress and near extinction.
  • To educate the community that these animals are very much alive and they exist, but they need our help.

The largest zoos in the country are as follows:

  1. North Carolina Zoo (2,600 acres)
  2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom (580 acres)
  3. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (580 acres)
  4. Minnesota Zoo (485 acres)
  5. Bronx Zoo (265 acres)

Some of the best zoos in the world may not be the largest, but are definitely worthy of being mentioned. These zoos are:

  • Henry Doorly Zoo (which was the most recommended by TripAdvisor)
  • Singapore Zoo (which is a very hands-on and interactive zoo)

Before you go and visit these zoos, or any zoo, remember the possible dangers of COVID-19 as there have been news that zoos’ animals have been tested positive. However, if you are well aware of the precautionary preventions and the ways to avoid getting infected, there’d be no problem for you to visit these sanctuaries for wildlife. Now go and admire the creations of nature!

References (of the direct quotes)

Bronx Zoo (2020). About. Retrieved from https://bronxzoo.com/about.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (2014). Connecting People & Wildlife. Retrieved from https://columbuszoo.org/connecting-people-wildlife-campaign.

North Carolina Map (2020). Retrieved from https://d15r41jch086ke.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/2020-07/NCZoo-Covid-Park-Map.pdf.

North Carolina Zoo (2020). Animal Care and Wellness. Retrieved from https://www.nczoo.org/wildlife/animal-care-and-wellness. Thompson, C. (2014). ‘And the world’s best zoo is…’ . Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/tripadvisor-best-zoos/index.html.

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