Zoo Basel

Zoo Basel is a non-profit zoo located within the city of Basel, Switzerland. Its main entrance is just outside of Basel's downtown strip of Steinen and extends in the Birsig stream valley to Basel's city border with Binningen, Basel-Country.

Its official name is Zoologischer Garten Basel — or in English: Basel Zoological Garden. Basel residents, however, call their zoo affectionately Zolli.

Zoo Basel is Switzerland's oldest and largest zoo (by number of animals). It is a major tourist attraction with nearly 1.7 million visitors per year, making it the most visited paid tourist attraction in Switzerland.
Zoo Basel was ranked as one of the fifteen best zoos in the world by Forbes Travel in 2008, and in 2009 as the seventh best in Europe by Anthony Sheridan from the Zoological Society of London.
The zoo had the first Indian rhinoceros birth in a zoo, as well as the first Greater flamingo hatch. It has also had repeated breeding success with animals including cheetahs (18 births), okapi (22), Pygmy hippopotamuses (53), and flamingos (over 400 hatches). Every Somali Wild Ass (a donkey) in zoos worldwide is related to the population in Basel, where this species' zoological breeding program was started.

Zoo Basel is surrounded by the city of Basel and has a similar role to the local population as does the Central Park in New York City for the city's residents. According to Zoo Basel, its "exhibits are designed not to reveal everything at the first glance and are planned to invite visitors to stop and make personal observations."
Listed below are some of Zoo Basel's exhibits. It should be noted, however, that exhibits continually change due to infrastructure upgrades, breeding successes, and the construction of new exhibits.


The aquarium (called Vivarium in Basel) was opened in 1972 and has had several notable breeding successes through the years. These include lungfish offspring in 2006, repeated king penguin hatches, and over a thousand hatches of the Red-bellied Short-necked Turtle since 1981.
As of March 2010, there are about 5,000 individual animals in the Vivarium, including reptiles, amphibians, Gentoo Penguins, and King Penguins.
During the winter months, the Gentoo and King penguins have access to an outdoor area and can be observed walking from the Vivarium to it every morning around eleven.

Africa exhibit

As of April 19, 2010, the Africa exhibit can only be accessed on weekends and public holidays. During the week, visitors can view part of the exhibit from a viewing platform.
Hippos, ostriches, and zebras (Grant's Zebra) live together in the Africa exhibit.
The Africa exhibit was Zoo Basel's first exhibit on which three different species share the same outdoor area. According to the zoo, experiences gained in this exhibit helped shape the Etosha theme area and the rhinoceros outdoor exhibit.

It was completed in 1993 and has been scene of several accidents. On October 13, 2004, after twelve years of living together, the 17-year-old zebra mustang bit the hippo male during its daily morning territory marking, fell into the water, and was killed by the hippos in front of several visitors.
In March 2010, the ostrich couple Baringo and Manyara have five chicks.


Zoo Basel first acquired kangaroos in 1908. Since then, over a hundred kangaroos have been born. In 2006, the theme area Australis was opened, funded by Novartis. In this outdoor exhibit, Western Grey Kangaroos and Australian Brush-turkeys live together. Inside the Australis house are several vivaria exhibiting Australian animals, including geckos, Redback spiders, Cane toads, several different species of Phasmatodeas (or stick insects), and green tree pythons. An educational exhibit inside the house focuses on marsupial reproduction.

Bird house

The Bird House opened in 1927 and is the second oldest building in Zoo Basel. While in the early days this house used to have reptiles and monkeys, it now has only birds in it.

The jungle in the center of the bird house has several free-flying birds, who can hide in the thick vegetation. Some birds like the Knysna Turaco can be heard, but are only visible in flight between two trees.

Since 1948 the zoo has hosted different birds belonging to the Zosteropidae bird family. The small Montane White-eye bird, that belongs to this family, came in 2008 again to Basel, after 20 years of absence.


The opening of the Etosha theme area in 2001 started the implementation of the large theme area concept of modern zoos at Zoo Basel. The Etosha exhibit consists of the Etosha house, outdoor exhibits for the cheetahs, wild dogs, ring-tailed lemurs, porcupines, and the lions, as well as the Gamgoas house. All of them together build a theme-area around the African circle of life.

The Etosha exhibit was named after the Etosha National Park in Namibia, Africa, which is the largest national park in Namibia and in the South West of Africa and about half the size of Switzerland.


Gamgoas is part of the Etosha theme area, but it refers mainly to the lion and crocodile house. Gamgoas's literal meaning in the local language of the Etosha people is "the place where the lions are."
In the Gamgoas house are two colonies of termites, one chameleon, five Nile crocodiles, several dozen East African cichlids (fish), a semi-large information exhibition, and three lion observation windows. A large window at the Nile crocodile enclosure allows visitors to see the crocodiles under water and to be within an inch to them.
On June 20, 2006 several Nile crocodiles hatched for the first time in the zoo's history. Two of these new crocodiles grew up in the zoo and are now among the five Nile crocodiles at Zoo Basel.

Sauter Garden

The Sauter Garden is at the zoo's south end towards Binningen. The land was acquired with money from the local goldsmith Ulrich Sauter and opened to the public in 1939.

The Sauter Garden's focus is on Asia. While African species (like the pygmy hippopotamus and the Humboldt penguin) are also in it, its main exhibits are of Asian animals: the Indian rhinoceros, snow leopard exhibits and, as of June 2010, the "Monkey Rock" with about 60 Macaques on/in it.

In the rhinoceros exhibit, Indian rhinoceroses, Muntjacs, and Oriental Small-clawed Otters share the outdoor area. Since then, the three different species lived together with no incidents. The 2.5-ton-rhinoceroses share their food with the 30-kilogram Muntjacs or go into one of three ponds where the Asian otters are swimming around the rhinos. The rhino exhibit originally opened in 1959, was extensively renovated, and re-opened in May 2008

The snow leopard exhibit houses a couple of snow leopards: Mayhan and Pator. Both arrived in the winter of 2008/2009 with zoo officials hoping for offspring. As of March 2010, 27 snow leopards were born in Basel.

Monkey House

The monkey house and the surrounding area are undergoing an extensive construction. This includes the tearing down of the small monkey house (home of the Ring-tailed Lemurs), the Macaques rock, the children's play ground, the old bear exhibits, and several paths.
In summer 2011 the enlarged monkey house will open. While visitors will have the same amount of space available, the apes' space will more than double from 340 square metres (3,700 sq ft) to 700 square metres (7,500 sq ft). The old outer walls will be torn down and the living quarters will be extended in depth and height. There will be additional compartments with no public access, a service tunnel, worker quarters, and restrooms added. All pictures were made public by Zoo Basel and Basler Zeitung.
In summer 2012 five large outdoor "cages", the remodeled monkey house roof, a new ape playground, and several new paths will open. The outdoor cages will have a double net layer. They will be 16 metres (52 ft) high for the Orangutans and 11 metres (36 ft) for the other apes. The children's playground is planned to go along with the jungle theme - similar to the one in the Etosha exhibit. The paths on the monkey roof, around the new cages, by the main entrance, and the former bear exhibits will be adjusted and/or newly constructed.

New Elephant house

The current elephant house (constructed in 1953) is due to be renovated and expanded. Planned are boxes for the females, a larger outdoor male area, and overall expansion of the area towards the old kangaroo exhibit.

Because of an estimated 24-million-Swiss-Franc donation for the monkey expansion project, Zoo Basel is able to finance this project. Detailed plans or a timeline, however, are not published. According to Basler Zeitung from May 12, 2010, the elephant house will be expanded before the Ozeanium project. This would put the opening of the new elephant house around the year 2015.

Ozeanium (additional aquarium)

On March 17, 2009, Zoo Basel announced its intent to build Switzerland's first large scale ocean aquarium. Mainly through private donors, a 70-million-Swiss-Franc building is planned to be built on the Heuwaage square, and will extend into the downtown nightlife strip of Steinen.

More information:

Opening hours:

Jan./Febr. 8.00 - 17.30
March/April 8.00 - 18.00
May-August 8.00 - 18.30
Sept./Oct. 8.00 - 18.00
Nov./Dec. 8.00 - 17.30

Basel Zoo is open to visitors 365 days a year

Entrance prices are quoted in Swiss Francs:

Adults CHF 18.00
Young people CHF 12.00
Children 6-16 y. CHF 7.00
Seniors 62+ CHF 16.00
Families CHF 39.00

Telephone: +41 61 295 35 35

Map of the zoo to download and print out:

How do I get to the Zoo?

Basel Zoo is situated right in the middle of the city; it is well signposted and can be reached on foot in 5-10 minutes from the city centre or Basel SBB (Swiss Railway Station).

You can find out about the combined train and zoo admission packages at (SBB) or at (German Railways).

Car parking facilities are available at 2 multi-storey car parks near Heuwaage, only a 5 minutes walk from the zoo.

Tram 1 or 8 to the Zoo Bachletten stop
Tram 2 and buses 34 or 36 to the Zoo Dorenbach stop
Tram 10 or 17 to the Zoo stop 

Address: Binningerstrasse 40, CH - 4011 Basel, Swizerland

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