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Belfast Zoo

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Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoo
Belfast Zoo logo
Date opened 1934
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Land area 55 acres (22 ha)[1]
Number of animals 1200+[1]
Number of species 140[1]
Annual visitors 300,000

Belfast Zoological Gardens (also known as Bellevue Zoo) is a zoo in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is located in a relatively secluded location on the northeastern slope of Cavehill, overlooking Belfast's Antrim Road, resulting in a uniquely tranquil environment for the animals that the zoo is frequently praised for.

About the zoo

The giraffe and zebra enclosure

Belfast Zoo is one of the top fee-paying visitor attractions in Northern Ireland, receiving more than 300,000 visitors a year. Located in north Belfast, the zoo's 55-acre (22 ha) site is home to more than 1,200 animals and 140 species.

The majority of the animals in Belfast Zoo are in danger in their natural habitat. The zoo carries out important conservation work and takes part in over 90 European and international breeding programmes which help to ensure the survival of many species under threat.

Belfast Zoo is owned by Belfast City Council.[1] The council spends £1.5 million every year on running and promoting the zoo, which is one of the few local government-funded zoos in the UK and Ireland.

The zoo's work is overseen by the council's Parks and Leisure Committee. The committee is made up of 20 locally elected councillors.


The view east from inside Belfast Zoo, showing its unique location on the slopes of Cavehill

The story of Belfast Zoo begins with the city's public transport system. At the beginning of the 20th century, passengers from Belfast were transported to the villages of Whitewell and Glengormley by horse-drawn trams belonging to the Belfast Street Tramway company and steam tramways from Cave Hill and Whitewell.

In 1911, the tram line was taken over by Belfast Corporation, now Belfast City Council. The corporation decided to build a miniature railway, playground, and pleasure gardens at the end of the line to encourage customers to use the service. The area was named Bellevue Gardens, meaning 'good or pretty view'.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the gardens were a popular destination for day trips. In 1933, the corporation decided to install a representative zoological collection on the site. Then, in 1934, 12 acres (4.9 ha) on either side of the Grand Floral Staircase, a series of steps designed to reach the top of the hillside, were laid out as Bellevue Zoo.

It took 150 men to build the site and the steps can still be seen from Antrim Road today. The zoo was opened on 28 March 1934 by Sir Crawford McCullough, the then Lord Mayor of Belfast. The venture was supported by Councillor RJR Harcourt from Belfast Corporation and was partnered by George Chapman, an animal dealer and circus entrepreneur.

It cost £10,000 to build and a total of 284,713 people visited the zoo in its first year.



Western lowland gorilla, lion-tailed macaque, pygmy marmoset, white-belted ruffed lemur, red-bellied lemur, ring-tailed lemur, red ruffed lemur, crowned lemur, crowned sifaka, black lion tamarin, red titi monkey, black and white colobus, red-backed bearded saki, Geoffrey's marmoset, Goeldi's monkey, pied tamarin, moloch gibbon, Javan brown langur, golden lion tamarin, Francois langur, emperor tamarin, Colombian spider monkey, common chimpanzee, cotton-top tamarin.

Other mammals

Asian elephant, spectacled bear, Californian sea lion, African wild dog, red kangaroo, Visayan warty pig, sitatunga, Barbary lion, Sumatran tiger, giant anteater, white-nosed coati, blesbok, spotted-necked otter (replacing smooth-coated otters), Rodrigues fruit bat, Red panda, Malayan sun bear, Maned wolf, vicuna, Rosthchild giraffe, Malayan tapir, lesser hedgehog tenrec, temminck's golden cat, red river hog, eastern bongo, Grant's zebra, Goodfellow's tree kangaroo, fossa, crested porcupine, cheetah, meerkat, black-tailed prairie dog, capybara, southern pudu.


Blue-eyed cockatoo, citron-crested cockatoo, Leadbeater's cockatoo, Moluccan cockatoo, red-tailed black cockatoo, white-tailed black cockatoo, palm cockatoo.

Other birds

Bali starling, toco toucan, Von der Decken's hornbill, white-tailed sea eagle, barn owl, Chilean flamingo, Indian peafowl, Nicobar pigeon, little egret, cattle egret, white-crested turaco, Luzon bleeding-heart dove, gentoo penguin, rockhopper penguin, Andean goose, Socorro dove, helmeted guineafowl, sunbittern, ostrich, tawny frogmouth, northern helmeted curassow, red-crested turaco, wattled jacana, blue-crowned laughing thrush, chestnut-backed thrush, coscoroba swan, southern crowned pigeon, East African crowned crane, demoiselle crane, crested wood partridge, fulvous whistling duck, southern screamer, laughing kookaburra, orange-headed ground thrush, pied imperial pigeon, ringed teal, violaceous turaco, Temminck's tragopan, white-browed coucal.


Chinese water dragon, royal python, Mediterranean tortoise, veiled chameleon, red-footed tortoise, Madagascar giant day gecko, Cuban tree boa, blue spiny lizard, box turtle.

Other animals

The zoo also has a farm which houses domestic animals such as pygmy goats, Shetland ponies, miniature donkeys, Irish Moiled cattle, ferrets, rabbits, barn owls, Tamworth pigs, Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, Vorwerk chickens, turkeys, and Berkshire pigs.

Recent developments

The meerkats are a popular attraction at Belfast Zoo.
A giraffe in the shared indoor giraffe and elephant house.

Belfast Zoo is always making changes and welcoming new arrivals or celebrating births.

In 2001 a wolf-like dog broke into a kangaroo enlosure and killed one of the younger kangaroos that had been born at the zoo.

In June 2007, a Barbary lion cub was born at the zoo. This was the first Barbary lion to be born in Ireland. The cub was rejected by its mother and hand-reared at home by keeper Linda Frew. Lily the lion moved to Hodonin Zoo in the Czech Republic in August 2009, as part of a breeding programme.

In 2008, the zoo opened a new tropical rainforest which houses such animals as two-toed sloth, red-footed tortoises and Rodrigues bats. The Rainforest House is a walk-through exhibition with tropical landscaping and a constant temperature of 27 degrees. In winter the zoo finds it slightly harder to keep it at a constant temperature and therefore some of the animals die.

More recently, renovations have included work on the gorilla and chimpanzee enclosures, giraffe and elephant enclosures, including a raised giraffe feeder, and new frames in the spider monkey and Andean bear enclosures.

In 2009, on its 75th birthday, the zoo opened a new state-of-the-art Visitors' Centre and "Zoovenir" Shop. The refurbishment features high-level roofing with plenty of natural light and multimedia presentations showing the history of Belfast Zoo and wildlife in Northern Ireland.

The zoo was awarded £250,000 from the Tourism Development Scheme (TDS) from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to build the new reception area. The council has donated a further £300,000 to help with the increase in visitor numbers.

2009 was a successful year with plenty of new arrivals including a Sumatran tiger called Kabus, and the only tree-kangaroo in the UK, called Kwikila. 2009 also brought the zoo's highest level of visitors in its history with over 302,000 visitors. Over 90 babies were born in the zoo in 2009.

2010 saw the arrival of two smooth-coated otters, red titi monkeys and a pair of toco toucans. Other new arrivals are planned for the year, to include a female Sumatran tiger to join Kabus. May Day in 2010 had more than double the visitors of the same day in 2009.

Babies since 2009 have included a Malayan tapir, ring-tailed lemurs, a Grant's zebra, sea lions, prairie dogs, litters of piglets, spider monkeys, red kangaroos and many more.

2012 saw the birth of two eastern bongos, a blesbok foal, a giraffe foal and a baby chimpanzee and 2013 has seen the birth of red titi monkeys, a two toed sloth, another chimpanzee, twin white-belted ruffed lemurs as well as the arrival of two goodfellows tree kangaroos. Belfast zoo is only one of 22 worldwide zoos to hold the Goodfellows tree kangaroo.

Floral Hall

Located within the grounds of the zoo is a 1930s art deco ballroom, the Floral Hall.

The Hall was popular venue in its time and during the war the Hall had blackouts fitted to the windows so that dances could continue. In the 1960s, the hall was visited by musical artists such as Pink Floyd and Small Faces. The Floral Hall closed to the public on 2 April 1972 and has remained derelict since the outbreak of the Troubles in the 1970s.

During the 1990s the Floral Hall had been given Listed Building Status.

Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust are planning to renovate the building, although Belfast City Council have yet to provide any funding.

2010 has seen the project be taken further, with various meetings to discuss potential uses for the hall and the carrying out of a feasibility study.

In December 2011 saw the creation of a Facebook page based around sharing old photos of the Floral Hall including interior shots of the hall today, the following year an online petition, addressed to the City Council was created to help raise awareness and to progress with the restoration project of the hall.


  1. ^ a b c d "Visit Us". Belfast City Council. Retrieved 23 March 2011. 

External links

  • Belfast Zoo website
  • Belfast City Council website
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