Johannesburg Zoo – All You Need To Know

by Kojo Pocu
Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg Zoo, located on Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkview, is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The massive 54-hectare green lung is located in the heart of the northern suburbs, where two tributaries of the Braamfontein Spruit converge in almost park-like surroundings.

The Johannesburg Zoo has earned international acclaim for its commitment to animal welfare and ethical behaviour, as well as its role in the protection of both indigenous and endangered species.

The zoo in Johannesburg is home to 2070 animals from 365 different kinds, and the animals are without a doubt the reason why people come to see this lovely location.

There are white lions, elephants, polar bears, chimpanzees, gorillas, bat-eared foxes, hippos, and antelope (one of the few sites in the world where you may view them). The Johannesburg Zoo is also the country’s only zoo that has successfully bred Siberian Tigers, the world’s largest cats.

There are tours, such as day safaris and night safaris – particularly exciting because you get to explore the zoo by moonlight and learn more about nocturnal animals like owls, bats, and cats – and sleepovers, where groups of children can sleep inside the education centre or even bring their own tents, where children can enjoy and learn about the environment.

A snake presentation is given to whet their appetites. Don’t forget about the zoo trot, which takes place every second Sunday of the month and allows participants to walk or run between 5 and 10 kilometres.

The zoo in Johannesburg received substantial renovations in 2004/05, with new exhibits including a walk-in aviary, an ape house, a reptile house, and new bear, puma, and tiger cages.


Hermann Eckstein owned the Braamfontein property, which is where the Johannesburg Zoo had its start. He had purchased the farm with the intention of exploring it for minerals, but when he was unable to find any, the site was converted into a timber plantation known as Sachsenwald after Otto von Bismarck in 1891. In August 1903, W. St. John Carr, the Mayor of Johannesburg, received a letter from Wernher Beit & Co and Max Michaelis offering the Johannesburg Town Council 200 acres of freehold land in the Sachsenwald plantation for recreational use by the people of Johannesburg, with the park being named Herman Eckstein Park after the man of the same name.

Zoo Lake, the Johannesburg Zoo, and the South African National Museum of Military History would all be built in this area. On March 22, 1904, the site was given to the Johannesburg Town Council.

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick would provide the zoo’s first animals, a modest private collection of African species, and would continue to provide the zoo with animals until 1912. Two lions and a leopard were housed in the zoo’s earliest cages. A bandstand was built for bass band music in 1910. After 1912, the zoo extended into property that had been set aside in trust for the Rand Regiments Memorial, a military memorial for troops who perished during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

A rhino and elephant home was built between 1913 and 1915, and an Asian elephant and a camel were brought and trained for rides. The zoo and neighbouring park were one of the few public spaces in South Africa that were never divided during Apartheid due to restrictions in the Deed of Gift under which the land for the Johannesburg Zoo and the neighbouring Zoo Lake was obtained. The zoo would change from iron and concrete cages to open, landscaped habitats in the 1960s.

From 1994 onwards, the zoo, like others in South Africa, began to lose government grants, so in 2000, the Johannesburg City Council corporatized the zoo and renamed it the Johannesburg Zoo Company, with the council as its majority shareholder, with the zoo expected to generate 75% of its own budget by 2007. The zoo now houses 326 species, totaling 2096 specimens, including 20 species of frogs, 5 species of spiders, 128 species of birds, 47 species of reptiles, 25 species of fish, and 101 species of mammals. Until 2014, it was home to Africa’s last polar bear.

Johannesburg Zoo


The zoo encounters a lot of unusual species because it is a member of international breeding programmes. They want to protect these animals that are on the verge of extinction. At the Johannesburg Zoo, you can expect to see the following animals:

  • Bengal Tiger
  • Elephant
  • Lion
  • Various reptiles
  • Giraffe
  • Variety of Game, like Eiland, Kudu, Antelope
  • Monkeys
  • Baboons
  • Rhino
  • Wild Dog
  • Lemur
  • Gorilla
  • Zebra
  • Leopard
  • Crocodile
  • Chimpanzee
  • Gorilla
  • Polar Bears
  • Pigmy Hippo

Events, Activities & Fun Facts

Johannesburg Zoo

Zoo Trot

Throughout the year, the zoo holds the Zoo Trot, which occurs nearly every second Sunday. They encourage people to take an early morning walk, run, or stroll along the track, which winds around the grounds and passes by a number of popular enclosures. Wear comfortable shoes because the early morning air will keep you energised.

Gajiga Run

Are you brave enough to run through the zoo at night? Sign up for the coolest night run around by bringing your headlight. The ticket provides one day’s admission to the zoo as well as a unique way to experience the zoo. We all know that predators are most active at night, but fear not, the zoo is completely secure and protected.

Every runner will receive a complimentary hydration beverage at the halfway point and a goodie bag once they cross the finish line, courtesy of Back To Basic Nutrition. Night Runners should be aware that once the sun has set, they will be required to use headlights (6pm).

Gajiga Runs are a terrific way to keep your family healthy while making memories that will last a lifetime. These runs aren’t about placing first; they’re about spending time with your loved ones and having a good time.


Attractions in Johannesburg

The Education Centre

The zoo has an amazing teaching centre where visitors can learn about wild animals and get up up and personal with them, all while being supervised by a qualified animal handler. Make sure you know what animals will be presented and introduced at each presentation so you can choose a show that you will enjoy.

Farm Yard

The Farm Yard allows you to engage with the animals by viewing, touching, and occasionally even smelling them. They are all amicable to humans, but you must be on your best behaviour because this is, after all, their home.

Aside from the variety of African Sheep, the animals enjoy receiving attention from your children, and there are a few ponies for them to pet.

The Reptile House

The Johannesburg Zoo has added a new exhibit called the Reptile House. The deadly Puff Adder, Green Mamba, and Dwarf Crocodile are among the scaly reptiles housed in the beautiful new habitat.

If you enjoy all things cold-blooded, a visit to the Reptile House is definitely up your alley.

Animals Of The Amazon

The Animals Of The Amazon exhibit, which opened in 2014, features some of Africa’s creepiest creepy crawlies, including reptiles, amphibians, and a variety of invertebrate species.

A trip to the zoo might involve a lot of walking, and the huge complex must ensure that each enclosure is large enough for the people. To avoid roaming about aimlessly all day, plan your trip ahead of time using the easily accessible map and incorporate the feeding times into your route.

Fun Facts

  • When the zoo was first started it housed: 1 lion, 1 leopard, 1 giraffe, 2 Sable antelope bulls, 1 baboon, 1 genet, 1 pair of Rhesus monkeys, 1 pair of porcupines and 1 Golden eagle.
  • It now houses the only 2 polar bears in Africa.
  • The surrounding trees is the biggest man made forest in the world.
  • The zoo is over a 100 years old.
  • Between 1913 and 1915, the zoo bought 1 Asian elephant and 1 Bactrian which were trained for rides.

How much is the entrance fee?

Children (age 3-12)R65$4.43
Pensioners R65$4.43
Students (weekdays only, with student card)R65$4.43
School groups (weekdays only, per person)R40$2.72
Welfare groups (weekdays only, per person)R45$3.06
Zoo trotR65$4.43
Ferry ridesR5 each (weekday)
R10 each (weekends)
Parking – cars & minivansR15$1.02
Parking – busses (30 – 120 seaters)R25$1.70

$1 = R14.68

When are the feeding times?

Vultures (Sundays only)11:00
Ground hornbills11:15
Wild Dogs and Cheetahs12:15
Crocodile talk (Sundays only. Only in Summer or warm days))13:00


Johannesburg Zoo, Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkview, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Contact Detail

City Parks and Zoo switchboard: (011) 712-6600
Joburg Zoo: (011) 646-2000
Joburg Zoo Fax: (011) 486-3931