National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka

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National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka
Date opened1936
LocationDehiwala, Colombo
Coordinates6°51′24.5″N 79°52′22.4″E / 6.856806°N 79.872889°E / 6.856806; 79.872889Coordinates: 6°51′24.5″N 79°52′22.4″E / 6.856806°N 79.872889°E / 6.856806; 79.872889
Land area10.1 ha / 0.10 km2
No. of animals3000 (2005)[1]
No. of species310 (2013)[2]
Annual visitors~1.5 million (2008)[3]
MembershipsWorld Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA)
Major exhibitsMammals, reptiles, aquatic animals, birds
WebsiteOfficial website

National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka (also called Colombo Zoo or Dehiwala Zoo) is a zoological garden in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, founded in 1936. Its sprawling areas are host to a variety of animals and birds. The zoo exhibits animals but also places an emphasis on animal conservation and welfare, and education.

The zoo has 3000 animals and 350 species as of 2005. The annual revenue is LKR 40 million.

The zoo exchanges its residents with other zoological gardens for breeding purposes.


Sri Lanka has a history of collecting and keeping wild animals as pets by some Sinhalese kings as well as some British. What is known today as National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka was founded by John Hagenbeck in the late 1920s. It was closed at beginning of World War II in 1939 because of the owner of that company was a German. After liquidation of Zoological Garden Company in 1936, the government acquired much of the collection and added it to the Dehiwala Zoo (Zoological Garden of Ceylon) collection. Although Dehiwala Zoo officially began operating in 1939, an impressive animal collection already existed there as part of Hagenback company's holding area, where public could visit.

Major Aubrey Neil Weinman, OBE was the first Director of the Dehiwala Zoo. During his period various programs were developed, such as introducing more native and foreign species, educational and conservation programs, improving the facilities and infrastructures and more.

By 1969, half of the collection consisted of native species including virtually all of the mammals represented. In 1973, the zoo had 158 mammal species, 259 bird species, 56 reptile species and 7 fish species. However, not much has been reported on Zoo progress until the 1980s.

Before World War I, the Dehiwala Zoo was also involved in Ethnographic Expositions (human zoo exhibits)[4] and functioned as holding quarters for live human exhibits collected from around the region.[5]


Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) in Dehiwala zoo Aquarium

Dehiwala Zoological Garden is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Asia and one of the most abusive. It has a substantial collection of worldwide animals. It is open all year long and can be reached by public transportation. Diversity of the zoo is indicated by the presence of an aquarium, walk through aviary, reptile house, butterfly garden and many small, dilapidated cages and enclosures, housing starving, bored animals, living in prison-like conditions.

The zoological garden has a small, but picturesque butterfly garden which is decorated with small shrubs, trees, creepers and small streams. Internal temperature and humidity of the house is controlled by artificially created mist. The butterfly garden exhibits 30 species of butterflies with their all stages of life cycle for educational purposes.

Animals in Dehiwala Zoo
# Category Species Number
[1] Mammals 100 450
[2] Birds 110 1000-1500
[3] Fish 65 1000
[4] Reptiles 34 250
[5] Amphibians 3 20
[6] Butterflies 30 100
[7] Marine invertebrates 10 25


The zoo has dense tree coverage and well landscaped gardens. To provide more natural habitats some lawns of the Zoo have been converted into small forest patches which are rich in rare plants. Valuable medicinal plants are prominent among the trees in these patches.

The zoo consists of shady pathways (dim lit and shady indeed) with arched cemented bridges are classic ways to cross an animal enclosure although there are plenty of equal attractive alternatives.

Animal shows[edit]

The elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) performances in Dehiwala zoo.

Elephant performance

The elephant's performance are held at elephant arena with certain time table. Pachyderms in shows perform antics such standing on their heads, wiggling their backs to music, hopping on one foot and standing up on their hind legs. This is an extremely cruel practice which is forced upon the elephants. The elephants in Dehiwala Zoo are chained, throughout the day in abusive conditions. Many of these elephants are showing neurotic and self-harming behavior, such as swaying back and forth all day long.

Educational programme on chimps

One of the main attraction of Dehiwala Zoo is Sanju - a baby chimpanzee. Sanju was hand raised and now its show is exerted as educational programme about the chimpanzee's behaviors . People can enjoy Sanju's daily performances.

Sea lion performances

The sea lions' performance are displayed daily at the sea lions' pool according to a time table. Two California sea lions are fed by their keepers during this wonderful moment. Unfortunately, this sea lion was housed in a measly enclosure, with a makeshift bath tub to swim in, when not performing.


Jaguar (Panthera onca) at Dehiwala Zoo, Sri Lanka.

The zoo consist of diverse indigenous as well as foreign wildlife including mammals, reptiles, birds and fish, destined for a horrible and torturous time spent. Every year the zoo exchanges some of its animals with other zoos worldwide to enlarge the diversity of its animals and introduce new species of animals as well.

Dehiwala Zoo always trying to introduce new members to their animal collection to expand it. In 2008, 3 month old seal has been brought to Sri Lanka from the Krefeld Zoo in Germany.[6]

A green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) which was brought to Sri Lanka some five years ago along with a male of the species, has given birth to 23 baby anacondas in the Dehiwala Zoo in 2008, and 20 of them had survived.[7] This was a very rare occasion of giving birth while in captivity, especially in a relatively unfamiliar territory.

Ongoing animal breeding program is helpful for increasing the population of some animal species in the zoo and it also important for conservation of the endangered species in the world.

Mammals Birds Reptiles
Asian elephant Pelican Anaconda
Oryx Eagle Cobra
Spotted deer Hawk Pit viper
Big cats - lion, jaguar, and tiger Ostrich Python
Bear - sloth and brown Macaws Cat snakes
Primates - orangutan, baboon, lemur chimpanzee, meerkats, etc. Owls Eastern green mamba
Zebra Cormorants Krait
Giraffe Egrets Crocodiles - dwarf, estuarine and mugger,
Sea lion Cassowary Beaded lizard
Hippopotamus Swans - black and white Turtles

New faces[edit]

The table contains introduction of new animal species which have been reported by the zoo administration to the media. The number of introduced and newborn animal species changes with the time due to death, animal exchanges with other zoos and some unavoidable circumstances.

Introduction month Type of animal Members Remarks
September 2004 Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx)[8] 2 brought from Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czech Republic
September 2004 Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)[8] 1 brought from Tiergarten Schönbrunn zoo in Austria - died by an infection after arrival of few years
September 2004 Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus)[8] 1 brought from Moscow Zoo in Russia
June 2005 Albino Indian cobra (Naja naja)[9] 13 born in Dehiwala Zoo 1 born in Dehiwala Zoo
June 2005 Toque macaque (Macaca sinica)[10] 1 born in Dehiwala Zoo
July 2005 Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)[11] 2 brought from Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Japan
August 2005 Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes)[10] 1 born in Dehiwala Zoo
November 2005 Giraff (Giraffa camelopardalis)[10] 1 born in Dehiwala Zoo
December 2007 Meerkats (Suricata suricatta)[12] 2 brought from Singapore Zoo
December 2007 Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)[12] 1 born in Dehiwala Zoo
December 2007 Rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta)[12] 2 brought from Singapore Zoo
June 2008 Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)[13] 3 brought from Xiangjiang Safari Park in China
June 2008 Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)[13] 2 brought from Xiangjiang Safari Park in China
June 2008 Zebra (Equus quagga)[13] 2 brought from Xiangjiang Safari Park in China
June 2008 Patagonian mara(Dolichotis patagonum)[14] 2 brought from Prague Zoo in Czech Republic
June 2008 Ring-tailed coati(Nasua nasua)[14] 2 brought from Prague Zoo in Czech Republic
July 2008 Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) 20 born in Dehiwala Zoo - Unfortunately all of them died due to viral infection after few months of their birth.
October 2008 Sea lion (Zalophus californianus) 1 brought from Crefold Zoo, Germany.
June 2009 Dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis)[15] 3 came from Leipzig Zoo, Germany
June 2009 Pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis)[16] 1 brought from Singapore Zoo
June 2009 Albino Indian cobra (Naja naja)[17] 15 born in Dehiwala Zoo
February 2010 White tiger[18] 2 received from Xiangjiang Safari Park. China one dead


March 2010> Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)[19]|2 received from Britain’s Rare Species Conservation Centre
March 2010 Meerkat[19] 2 received from Britain’s Rare Species Conservation Centre

Facilities for visitors[edit]

Elephant rides, pony rides, restaurants, boat riding, ice cream shop, and a souvenir shop are available facilities for the visitors.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka". Sunday Observer. 2005-07-31. Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  2. ^ name="daily news>
  3. ^ "Dehiwala Zoo Breaking Records". 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Ceylon & The Colonial Freak Show". BLERD. 2017-02-15. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  6. ^ "New resident at Dehiwala Zoo". Sunday Observer. 2008-10-26. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  7. ^ "Anaconda gives birth to 20 'babies' in Sri Lanka". lankamission. 2008-07-14. Archived from the original on 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  8. ^ a b c "New faces at the Zoo". 2004-09-26. Retrieved 2009-07-22.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "White Cobra gives birth to 13 in zoo". 2005-06-28. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  10. ^ a b c "Animal babies". Archived from the original on 2009-05-12. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  11. ^ "Hello rhinos, goodbye jumbos". 2005-08-19. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
  12. ^ a b c "New inmates at Dehiwela Zoo". 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  13. ^ a b c "New inmates at Dehiwela Zoo". 2008-06-13. Archived from the original on 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  14. ^ a b "New inmates at Dehiwela Zoo". 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  15. ^ "Smallest crocodile on earth". Daily News. 2009-06-11. Archived from the original on 2009-06-13. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  16. ^ "Latest arrival joins Pygmy Hippo family". 2009-06-21. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  17. ^ "COBRA LITTER AT DEHIWELA ZOO HAS FIFTEEN ALBINOS". 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  18. ^ "White Tigers arrive at the Dehiwala Zoo". 2010-03-04. Archived from the original on 2010-05-06. Retrieved 2010-03-06.
  19. ^ a b "Lemurs and meerkats for Dehiwala Zoo". 2010-03-14. Retrieved 2010-03-20.

External links[edit]