Okay so you have a public holiday on a typically Highveld winters day, it’s glorious outside and you feel like a walk, some sightseeing and a light lunch so where can you go? Having recently been to the Walter Sisulu botanical gardens we opted for the Johannesburg Zoo, as we had not been there for some time and wanted to see the Amazon exhibits.
Before I go further please not that I have mixed views about zoos but many good stories come out of their existence and they have a place and a role to play in modern education and conservation.
The 55-hectare gardens are well kept. I was impressed by the cleanliness of the zoo, the cages, as well as the contents of the food bowls of the animals, which as it would seem had recently been fed.
Many of the older facilities such as the Elephant House are used as interesting conference facilities and the old Victorian Lion Cage built in 1904 when the Zoo opened is on display and allows people to walk in and see the old style of cage. Nowadays the more modern facilities allow the animals a bit more freedom. A variety of tours can be booked through the Zoo and these include the very popular night tours where one can see the nocturnal animals. The Amazon Exhibit is housed in a well designed and modern facility and showcases, reptiles, bats, frogs, spiders and fish- one gets up close and personal with Piranhas and Anacondas, made famous by the cheesy movies of our youth.
There is much good done here behind the scenes and on many occasions the Zoo partners with other NGO’s to assist with the housing and resultant rehabilitation of animals, the most recent being the female Hyena found on the BraamfonteinSpruit.
Johannesburg Zoo is famous for it’s white lion breeding programme as well as having successfully bred Siberian Tigers,the largest cats on the planet,the most famous of these being the male known as “Twist”.
Possibly the most famous and revered resident of the Zoo was Max the Gorilla who was shot when Isaac Mofokeng jumped into his enclosure whilst trying to evade capture by the police, Max also managed to injure 3 police officers before they were removed and Mofokeng was detained, one can only imagine how scared he was whilst trying to protect his partner Lisa. After unsuccessful attempts to remove the bullets at the Zoo Max was eventually operated on at Milpark hospital and returned to his enclosure, born in 1971 he eventually passed away in 2005.He is remembered by a large bronze statue near his enclosure. There are numerous snack stalls but after a few hours of walking we opted for a meal at the Fino Restaurant situated inside the zoo where we enjoyed an excellent meal and coffee.
The Main Gate opposite the intersection of Lower Park Drive and Jan Smuts Avenue.
011 646 2000
The popular parking area to the South of the Zoo on Erswold Way is currently undergoing renovations so visitors are advised to Park at Zoo Lake and walk across.