The Zoo is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Entry passes are required for all guests, including infants. Plan your visit.


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About the Zoo

Our Vision: Humankind unites in support of a biodiverse planet where wildlife and nature thrive

Our Mission: We save species by using cutting-edge science, sharing knowledge and providing inspirational experiences for our guests.

Always free of charge, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of Washington D.C.’s, and the Smithsonian’s, most popular tourist destinations, with nearly 2 million visitors from all over the world each year. The Zoo instills a lifelong commitment to conservation through engaging experiences with animals and the people working to save them. Founded in 1889, the Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex. Today, the Zoo sits on 163 acres in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park and is home to nearly 1,800 animals representing more than 360 species.

The Zoo’s commitment to conservation, research and education extends to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located in nearby Front Royal, Virginia on a sprawling 3,200-acre campus. SCBI scientists and animal care experts conduct veterinary and reproductive research to save wildlife and habitats for some of the world’s most endangered animals — more than 270 animals representing 20 species. 

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute leads the Smithsonian’s global effort to save species, better understand ecosystems and train future generations of conservationists. Its scientists also work in field stations around the world. More than 200 scientists and their partners in more than 30 countries create and share knowledge to aid in the survival and recovery of species and their habitats. Findings from these studies provide critical data for the management of captive populations and valuable insights for the conservation and management of wild populations. Collectively, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute care for more than 2,000 animals representing more than 380 species.

While the federal appropriation funds approximately 70 percent of the Zoo’s operating budget, it only funds 50 percent of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute's capital budget and less than half of the research budget. Only through generous contributions can the Zoo build new animal habitats, develop educational programs, conduct and share vital research, train the next generation of global conservation leaders, and have the flexibility to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Learn how your support can help save species.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is a long-standing accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the organization that determines modern zoological standards for its 200-plus members. AZA accreditation certifies that the Zoo has met or exceeded the AZA’s standards for animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.


The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute began as the dream of William Temple Hornaday.


The go-to place for the latest news from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.