Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



National Zoo Facts and Figures

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo was established on March 2, 1889, by an Act of Congress for “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” Today, the National Zoo exhibits living animal and plant collections, and conducts research in conservation biology and reproductive science.

Its mission is to provide leadership in animal care, science, education, and sustainability.

Each year, more than two million people visit the National Zoo’s 163-acre park in the heart of Washington, D.C., to learn about the 1,800 animals representing 300 species.

A Sample of Exhibits

  • Nearly a quarter of the animals at the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute are members of endangered species, and include giant pandas, Asian elephants, white-naped cranes, and western lowland gorillas.
  • The National Zoo has 180 species of trees, 850 species of woody shrubs and herbaceous plants, and 40 species of grasses. There are also 36 different species of bamboo.
  • Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Bao Bao are the National Zoo’s giant pandas. Tian Tian and Mei Xiang are on a ten-year loan from China as part of a research, conservation, and breeding program. Mei Xiang gave birth to a male cub, Tai Shan, on July 9, 2005 and a female cub, Bao Bao, on August 23, 2013. Tai Shan moved in China in February 2010. The pandas live at the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, a state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor exhibit designed to mimic the pandas' natural habitat of rocky, lush terrain in China.
  • The National Zoo’s young male Asian elephant, Kandula, was the fifth elephant calf in the world conceived through artificial insemination. Born in 2001, Kandula represents a first step in Zoo efforts to develop a herd of breeding elephants. Currently, seven Asian elephants live at the National Zoo.
  • There are three Sumatran tigers and nine African lions that call the National Zoo home.
  • Following decades of reproductive research, the National Zoo welcomed the birth of the first cheetahs ever born at the Zoo in November 2004 and April 2005. The cubs have left for other zoos, and the Zoo has since opened the Cheetah Science Facility at its Front Royal, Virginia, campus. The Zoo currently exhibits three cheetahs.
  • As part of a conservation partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visitors to the National Zoo can watch two bald eagles from a close-up observation blind. Tioga and Samantha were both injured in the wild and are unable to fly. They are part of a naturalistic exhibit that includes an interactive display on the nation’s wildlife refuges.

Research and Conservation

  • The National Zoo was one of the first zoos to establish a scientific research program. Today, the Zoo’s research team studies animals both in the wild and at the Zoo. Its research encompasses reproductive biology, conservation biology, biodiversity monitoring, veterinary medicine, nutrition, behavior, ecology, and bird migration.
  • In addition to the National Zoo’s exhibits and lab facilities in Washington, D.C., Zoo scientists can be found at the 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, and at field sites around the world.
  • Many animals at the National Zoo are part of conservation efforts managed by Species Survival Plans (SSPs). Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' SSPs, zoos match and exchange animals for breeding, foster scientific research, and reintroduce animals back into the wild. Early breeding programs at the National Zoo served as models for the development of other zoo-based conservation programs worldwide, and the Zoo directs several breeding programs including that of golden lion tamarins.
  • The National Zoo is a premier institution for educating future scientists and conservation professionals. More than 2,000 people from 80 countries have been trained through the Zoo’s zoological medicine residency training program and professional conservation and veterinary medicine courses over the last 20 years.

Revitalization and Future Plans

  • On October 17, 2006, the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail opened as the first major step in a ten-year initiative to renovate and modernize the National Zoo. The new and expanded Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat is the gateway to Asia Trail; the six other species living along the Trail are sloth bears, fishing cats, clouded leopards, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters, and a Japanese giant salamander.
  • Kids' Farm, an exhibit designed to introduce young visitors to domesticated farm animals, opened in June 2004. This interactive exhibit provides hands-on opportunities for children to care for animals under close, trained supervision.
  • In 2008, the Zoo began construction on Elephant Trails, an innovative and stimulating new home for a multi-generational herd, where our Asian elephants will thrive and our visitors can experience the extraordinary reality of a living elephant.


  • The National Zoo’s budget is part of the Smithsonian Institution budget. The annual federal appropriation for National Zoo operating expenses at both the Rock Creek and Front Royal facilities for fiscal year 2006 is $20 million; Congress also authorized $14.2 million for extensive renovations.
  • The Zoo’s support society, Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), provides an additional $4 million to $8 million in private funds annually. Created in 1958, FONZ is a nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members. FONZ is dedicated to supporting the conservation, education and research efforts of the National Zoo.


  • The National Zoo maintains a staff of 250 between the Rock Creek and Front Royal, Virginia, facilities, including animal caretakers, veterinarians and scientists.
  • FONZ supports the National Zoo by developing and implementing education, membership and volunteer programs; hosting special events; raising funds for Zoo projects; and providing grants for Zoo research. FONZ operates an extensive wildlife-education program, and its corps of more than 1,500 volunteers provides about 90,000 hours of service to the Zoo each year. FONZ also provides concessions, merchandise and parking services for Zoo visitors. ZooFari, Boo at the Zoo, and ZooLights are a few of the special events that FONZ hosts each year for its members and the general public.

The National Zoo is open every day of the year except December 25. Admission to the Zoo is free.

For information regarding Zoo hours, directions, and the Zoo's animal collection, please see the following pages:

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
3001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008

Media Contacts
Office of Communications: 202.633.3055