It was the conspicuous collaboration of two brothers John Hagenbeck and his brother Carl who was twenty two years younger than him whose initiation gave rise to the National Zoological Gardens (Dehiwala zoo) and what it is today when John Hagenbeck bought two and a half acres of land at Dehiwela and began a private animal collection centre.
The centre was started and subsequently used by John to hold the wild animals before exporting them to Europe , a trade he began more than sixty eight years ago in Sri Lanka.
It was only in 1936 that the centre was taken over by the government and today the objectives of the zoo are merely conservation ,animal welfare, breeding research and education.
John’s attraction for Sri Lanka had been since the age of twenty when he first visited Ceylon in 1886 where he had indulged in many fields of business.
He was a ship chandler and acquired plantations in Ceylon way back then and grew tea, coffee and coco and incidentally the Hagenbeck name appears on the Tiger marked tea tins even today. John , a rather enterprising businessman at that time also indulged in catching wild animals and was an animal trader too.
His brothers collaborated in many fields too at that time and John later supplied his brother, Carl, with animals to do the business with Carl Hagenbeck which stands testimony and received renowned recognition for the foundation of the Zoological Garden in Hamburg, Germany in 1907.
John Hagenbeck’s property in Ceylon was repossessed during the First World War and John left Ceylon and returned to Colombo after the war and founded the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka at Dehiwela. He died in an internment camp shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War.
When the government purchased the zoo in 1936 the zoo came under the purview of the Government Agent of Colombo and was subsequently made an autonomous department in 1946 with the aim of satisfying the curiosity of people and thus the zoo became more focused on entertainment and conservation.
Under the patronage of the first director Aubrey Weinman cages were built, large and small, to house an ever increasing number of specimens and shows were introduced such as the elephant performance and chimpanzee tea party which brought thousands of visitors to the zoo which is still part of the entertainment today as well.
Today, the National Zoological Gardens is just 10 km away from Fort . The 26 acre zoo is set up with beautifully laid out shrubs, trees and plants, orchids, lakes and fountains. At present there are 50 fish species, 93 birds, 33 reptiles and 85 mammals to entertain the visitor at the zoo today.
Menaka Pathirage, Zoologist ,National Zoological Gardens Dehiwela in an interview with Sunday Observer said that there were many additions to the zoo in the recent past; two pairs of Cheetars on August 8, 2206 from the Singapore Zoo, a pair of white handed Gibbons or Largibbon on October 5, 2006, White Fronted Lemurs (two males and three females) from the Zoo de Lo-Flghe, France, a pair of Siamang Gibbons on March 5,2007 from the Ostrava Zoo, Chez Republic and Black Rhinos on July 31, 2007 from the Nagoya Hiyashiyama Zoo, Japan.
Within a month the Zoologist said there would be additions to the zoo: two pairs of males and female Boa Constrictors, Bearded Lizards from the Reptile Centre, England , a pair of Meerkats from the Singapore zoo and a Greater Kudu from the Chiang Mai, Night Safari.
An exotic Bird Aviary as well as an Elephant Free Living area is in progress, yet another attraction to the visitor. Leopard and orangutung enclosures are also being designed, Menaka Pathirage added.
There are over 2000 animals presently in the zoo which include a large collection of birds, elephants, sloth bears, leopards, civets, and other small cats, many kinds of lizards, crocodiles and snakes. lions, tigers, jaguars, black panthers, and many exotic species such as hippopotami, rhinos, giraffes and kangaroos.
Penguins, macaws, African lions, capuchin monkeys and many endemic species have also been reared. Recent additions to the zoo’s attraction are the museum and a live reef tank which permits visitors to observe wildlife at close quarters. So make a trip down to the Dehiwela zoo and explore the wonders of the much sort after tourist attraction.
In close proximity to the Dehiwela zoo is yet another tourist attraction, the Buddhist Subodharamaya Temple, a delightful and tranquil spot in the bustle of the suburbs which features a reclining Buddha described as the Buddha with the Sapphire eyes.
The Dehiwela Zoo also has a great educational attraction. It is the major zoological garden in Sri Lanka and is visited by a large number of local and foreign tourists. Over 1.2 million visitors pass through the Zoo’s gates every year for it caters to young and old alike. Visiting the zoo is a source of healthy recreation to the average citizen.
- Attractions of Sri Lanka
- Heritage of Sri Lanka
- Waterfalls of Sri Lanka
- Nature and Wildlife of Sri Lanka
- Other Places of Interest Within Close Proximity
Map of the National Zoological Gardens – Dehiwala
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Traveling to National Zoological Gardens – Dehiwala
|Route from Colombo to National Zoological Gardens – Dehiwala
|Through : Galle Road
Distance : 09 km
Travel time : 45 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map