Dehiwala National Zoo – Colombo


Dehiwala National Zoo, which has an exceptional collection of exotic and indigenous fauna, is one of the oldest zoos in Asia. The Zoo in Sri Lanka is generally known as Colombo Zoo all over the world.
Currently, Dehiwala Zoo houses 72 Mammals, 65 birds, 31 varieties of reptiles, 89 species of fish, 03 species of amphibians and 30 species of Butterflies etc. The total number of animals varies from 2500-3000 due to breeding and free-living colonies of birds. Dehiwala Zoo has become famous among visitors for collecting local and exotic animals and landscaping with lush greeneries. Furthermore, the Zoo supports and promotes conservation by breeding certain rare and endangered species through proper animal welfare.
Yearly, over one and a half million local and foreign tourists visit the Zoo. And around 2000 students and groups of students from schools and universities visit the Zoo for educational purposes.
The Zoo is trying to keep pace with the changing world. As a result, it has been involved in some significant redevelopment programmes to enhance the overall picture of the Zoo while giving the highest facilities for animals and visitors.

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The Origins of Dehiwala National Zoo

The remarkable journey of the Dehiwala National Zoo began with the collaboration of two brothers, John Hagenbeck and Carl Hagenbeck. John Hagenbeck's love for Sri Lanka blossomed when he first visited the country in 1886. During his time in Ceylon, he engaged in various business ventures, including being a ship chandler and owning plantations where he cultivated tea, coffee, and cocoa. Alongside his business endeavours, John was also passionate about wildlife and embarked on catching wild animals and engaging in animal trading.

John's brother, Carl Hagenbeck, shared his enthusiasm for wildlife and partnered with him in the animal trade business. In 1907, Carl established the renowned Zoological Garden in Hamburg, Germany. Meanwhile, John purchased two and a half acres of land in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, to develop his private animal collection centre. This centre was a holding place for wild animals before exporting them to Europe, a trade John initiated over sixty-eight years ago on the island.

Transition to the Dehiwala National Zoo

In 1936, the Sri Lankan government took over John Hagenbeck's centre, marking the beginning of the zoo's transformation into its current form. The government's acquisition brought the zoo under the purview of the Government Agent of Colombo. Then, in 1946, it became an autonomous department to satisfy people's curiosity and make entertainment and conservation its primary focus.

Under the guidance of the first director, Aubrey Weinman, the zoo witnessed significant development. Various-sized cages were constructed to accommodate the growing number of animal specimens. Additionally, captivating shows such as the elephant performance and chimpanzee tea party were introduced, enchanting visitors and creating unforgettable experiences.

The Diverse Offerings of Dehiwala National Zoo

Spread across 26 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds adorned with shrubs, trees, plants, orchids, lakes, and fountains; the Dehiwala National Zoo offers a picturesque setting for wildlife enthusiasts. It boasts a diverse collection of animals, comprising 50 fish species, 93 bird species, 33 reptile species, and 85 mammal species. This remarkable variety showcases the rich biodiversity of Sri Lanka and the world.

In recent years, the zoo has seen several additions to its collection. These include two pairs of Cheetahs from the Singapore Zoo, white-handed Gibbons from France, and Black Rhinos from Japan. The zoo also has ambitious plans for additional attractions, including an exotic Bird Aviary, an Elephant Free Living area, and specially designed enclosures for Leopards and Orangutans.

Educational Experiences at the Zoo

The Dehiwala Zoo offers a chance to observe a wide range of animals and provides educational experiences. The zoo features a museum that showcases informative exhibits about wildlife and conservation. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the live reef tank, which offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with marine life. These educational experiences foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the animal kingdom and the importance of conservation.

Nearby the zoo, amidst the suburban bustle, lies the Buddhist Subodharamaya Temple. This serene spot provides a tranquil escape and features a reclining Buddha known as the Buddha with the Sapphire Eyes. Visitors can take a moment to immerse themselves in the spiritual ambience and reflect on the beauty of nature.

A Popular Destination for All

As the central zoological garden in Sri Lanka, the Dehiwala National Zoo attracts many local and foreign tourists. Annually, over 1.2 million visitors pass through its gates, seeking entertainment, education, and a chance to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom. The zoo caters to both young and old, offering a source of healthy recreation and a memorable day spent in the company of fascinating creatures.


Q1: What are the opening hours of the Dehiwala National Zoo? The zoo is open daily from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm, with the last ticket sale at 5.30 pm.

Q2: How much are the entrance fees for Sri Lankan visitors? For Sri Lankans, the entrance fee is LKR 250.00 for adults, LKR 100.00 for children, and LKR 50.00 for school/nursery groups.

Q3: What are the entrance fees for overseas visitors? Overseas visitors are required to pay USD 15.00 for adults and USD 7.50 for children. The fees should be delivered in Sri Lankan currency.

Q4: Are there any special fees for SAARC visitors? Yes, SAARC visitors are required to pay USD 10.00 for adults and USD 5.00 for children. The fees should be delivered in Sri Lankan currency.

Q5: How can I reach Dehiwala Zoo using public transportation? You can get to Dehiwala Zoo by taking Route Number 176 public bus from Hettiyawatta (Kotahena) to Karagampitiya or Dehiwala. If you're coming by train, you can get down at the Dehiwala train station and catch the 176 bus that starts outside the station and passes by the zoo.



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