The long summer holidays are slowly but surely coming into view and Mums and Dads are starting to think about entertaining their kids for those six, l-o-n-g weeks. Zoos are a wonderful source of entertainment and information, allowing children to get close to their favourite animals. Which one tops your list?

(Our excellent, featured image is by glenbowman)



Edinburgh Zoo

Tian Tian (the girl panda) and Yang Guang (the boy panda) left their Chengdu home and arrived in Scotland – to the sound of bagpipes – in December 2011. They are the first giant pandas to live in the United Kingdom for nearly 20 years, drawing around 70,000 panda lovers already – including Nicole Kidman and her daughters. The big hope is that they mate and have super-cute cubs. That would turn the 99-year-old, 1,000-animal Edinburgh Zoo into a stellar attraction.

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Wuppertal Zoo, Germany

Remember Knut, the lovable polar bear cub who was raised by a zoo keeper at Berlin Zoo after his mother rejected him? He charmed the world, lending his likeness to a mountain of covetable merchandise before passing on at just four years. Now, happily, he has a new half-sister Anori whose playful frolicking is wowing visitors to the 24-hectare zoo in Wuppertal. Apart from Anori, the zoo also has the largest lion enclosure in a German zoo, an outdoor enclosure for orangutans and, somewhat unusual for a zoo, a large herd of elephants.



Bronx Zoo, New York

The eco-friendly escape was the first in the world to establish both a zoo education programme and a predator-prey exhibition. Take a tour of Africa in the middle of New York: the African Plains exhibition is a second-best environment for giraffes, zebras and, of course, lions. Search and compare cheap flights to New York.



San Diego Zoo, California

Visitors to the San Diego Zoo are typically surprised – and then impressed – by the attraction’s cage-free setup. The SoCal zoo was one of the first in the world to build moats instead of bars, encouraging a more organic environment for the animals – and for spectators. Get a feel for the massive park via the monorail, then visit the adorable monkeys in the Lost Forest exhibit. Some of the rarest and most endangered primates dangle from tree canopies as visitors meet nearby flamingos, hippos, tigers and more.


Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC

The most famous free zoo in America is an absolute delight to visit, as the park set up trainings, feeding demonstrations and expert discussions daily to educate visitors. Famous for its outdoor giant panda habitat, the National Zoo – as it’s better known – also features the Great Ape House, Invertebrate Exhibit, Reptile Discovery Centre and more must-visit attractions. At the of our list are the elephants, which will have a new home – Elephant Trails – in 2013.



Toronto Zoo, Canada

Canada’s largest zoo is divided into seven regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra Trek. In other words, the more than 5,000 animals – drawn from 500 species – is a strong representation of the planet’s creatures. Bring your camera for the five-acre polar bear habitat or the Gorilla Rainforest, the world’s largest indoor habitat for lowland gorillas.



The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Centre, Belize

“The Best Little Zoo in the World” was founded nearly 30 years ago to provide sanctuary for wild animals used in a documentary about tropical forests. Today the zoo, located 47km (29 miles) west of Belize City, exhibits more than 150 animals native to Belize. A major draw are the wildcats found in the Central American country: jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jacuarundi. The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Programme is just one of the zoo’s initiatives that help to promote conservation and awareness, and to protect Belize’s natural resources.



Singapore Zoo, Singapore

Singapore Zoo is an “open-concept” zoo. The enclosures are separated not by fences or cages but by moats, giving animals and visitors an altogether more “in the wild” experience. The zoo has become world-famous as a home for our feathered friends. The specialities of the walk-in aviaries are the Birds of Paradise, the Bali Mynah, the Hyacinth Macaw and the Blue Throated Macaw. However, the flagship species – and visitor favourite – are the orang-utans who lounge above your head as you leave the zoo. Just keep hold of your iPad.



Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, United Arab Emirates

Like many of Dubai’s other attractions, the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is a world-class show-stopper. It has even earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s largest acrylic panel. So far, so dull, except for the fact that this panel is 32.8 metres wide, 8.3 metres high and holds 10 million litres of water. The aquarium/zoo has quickly become one of the best places to see sharks. There are seven new species there (Black Tip Shark, White Tip Shark, Spotted Bamboo Shark, Coral Cat Shark, Zebra Horned Shark, Wobbegong Shark and Leopard Shark) and it has the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.



Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane, Australia

The first and largest koala sanctuary in the world was set up in 1927 and is home to more than 130 koalas. It’s one of the very few places where you can hold a koala (a hug and a photo costs about $20 AUD) and you can also feed kangaroos and the colourful lorikeets. Strict rules mean a koala can only be cuddled for up to 30 minutes each day and they get every third day off. There are lots of other native animals too – Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, reptiles and platypus.


About the author

Lauren SullivanLauren’s spent her twenty-some years of life saving up nickels, dimes and vacation days to see the world, typically with only a backpack in tow.

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