Just 4kms from the centre of Melbourne situated on 22 hectares of botanic-style gardens is the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens more simply known as The Melbourne Zoo.
The Zoo shelters more than 350 animal species and is regarded by many as one of the best zoos in the world. The garden habitats recreate natural environments showcasing some of the world's most beautiful flora and fauna.
The Zoo is Australia's oldest and was modelled on the London Zoo. It opened on its present site in 1862. Significant historic features such as the design of the main walk and an early 20th century menagerie exhibit are preserved in their original design. Initially the zoo was important for the acclimatisation of domestic animals recovering from long journeys to Australia.
In 1870 Albert Alexander Cochrane Le Souef introduced more exotic animals for public display. Today the animals are organised into bioclimatic zones. The African rainforest features gorillas, mandrills, pigmy hippos and parrots. The Asian rainforest features tigers and the ever popular otters. The Aussie bush area hosts koala, kangaroos, emus, echidnas and endangered hairy nosed wombats.
Popular exhibits include the Butterfly House, the Great Aviary and The Trail of the Elephants. Melbourne Zoo recently obtained three Asian elephants from Thailand. Visitor services at the zoo include a licensed bistro, take-away food outlets, gift and souvenir shopping, conference and function facilities, wheelchairs, picnic pavilions, special animal feeding times and multi-lingual guide books and maps.
Melbourne Zoo is located within minutes of the city Centre within Royal Park. Car parking is available or visitors can take the tram or train to reach the zoo. Tram 55 from William Street Monday to Saturday and tram 68 from Elizabeth Street on Sundays. Trains run from historic Flinders Street Station on the Upfield or Gowie Lines Monday through Sunday, stooping at the zoo's own Royal Park station. Melbourne Zoo is open every day of the year (including Christmas day and public holidays from 9am to 5pm. On selected summer evenings the zoo opens late to 9.30pm for Twilight evenings.