In the late 1960’s, plans to develop a large plains zoo to complement Taronga Zoo Sydney were established. The new zoo would provide breeding facilities particularly suited to the large plains dwelling animals and to fulfill a need for an open range facility for the display of mainly grazing animals. After considerable planning and preparation, a site on the outskirts of Dubbo in central West New South Wales was chosen. Formerly an army camp during World War Two, the site was transformed into a 300 hectare oasis of woodland and irrigated grassland.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo opened to the public on 28th February 1977 and was the first zoo in Australia to be constructed on the open range principle. It was also the first zoo to be built in Australia in 60 years.When the Zoo opened, it contained 35 different animals from six countries. Today visitors can see over 1,000 different animals from five continents of the world.
Since opening, the Zoo has developed a reputation as a world-renowned centre for its care of wildlife, breeding programs (especially of endangered species), conservation programs, education facilities and exhibits. It is now widely recognised as Australia’s greatest open plain zoo. The Zoo is an open-range design, with walls and fences replaced by concealed moats which divide the animals from the visitors. This creates the impression of actually being with the animals in the wild.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo has also become recognised as a major tourist attraction both within New South Wales and in Australia. In 1994 Western Plains Zoo was awarded as the Best Major Tourist Attraction, the highest honour in Australian Tourism.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo provides much more than animal displays. It is a place to come and relax and enjoy the atmosphere. It is an education centre, a research centre and a wildlife conservation centre dedicated to the preservation of species from around the world. It is really is much more than a zoo.