What’s New in the Zoo?
Experience | Dubbo | wildlife | zoo | Central West | New South Wales

What’s New in the Zoo?

Taronga Western Plains

by Susie Baber  |  3 January 2022

Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo was developed to compliment Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. The new zoo was designed to provide breeding facilities and habitats for large grazing animals, those that in the wild would inhabit wide open plains. Opened in 1977, it is now home to over 5,000 animals from over 350 species.

The 300 hectares of open woodland and grasslands is a big area to get around, there is a 5km circuit which you can explore in your car, by bike, foot or hire a zebra stripped golf buggy! It was very hot the day we visited, in hind sight January probably isn’t the best month to choose for this adventure. So as much as I like the idea of exploring the zoo on two wheels, we decided to stick to the airconditioned car.

Your entry ticket lasts for two days, and you can go around the one-way circuit as many times as you like. Multiple circuits would involve exiting and entering the main gate each time, so if it is busy you may have to queue again. We took our time and went around the zoo once on each of the days we were there.

Much of the open-range design uses moats instead of fences to separate animals from visitors, giving a more natural feel to your animal encounter. As the road winds around the zoo there are parking areas where you can hop out of the car and explore the nearby exhibits. There are picnic areas with bbqs and playgrounds, and a café with a water play area, this spot was very popular for families with young kids on this hot January day.

Both of Taronga’s zoos have a heavy focus on education and conservation and all the money they make goes back into caring for the animals and into conservation projects. Endangered animals at the park include the Asian elephants, black and white rhinoceros, the Sumatran tiger, and the bongo, of which there are only 200 left in the wild!

Look out for daily keeper talks which are included in your zoo entry, they often coincide with feeding time so you will get a good look at the animals moving about. There are also special tours you can book for an extra cost, we did the Savannah Safari – a bus ride around the open savannah display which gets you up a bit closer to some of the animals living there. Have a look at the website to see what else is on offer before you go, as these will generally have to be booked in advance.

If you are after the ultimate zoo experience you can stay overnight at the African style Zoofari Lodge or in a self-contained Savannah Cabin. There is also camping (tents provided) at Billabong Camp. We camped at a farm outside Dubbo and had our camper trailer with us on our second day at the zoo, obviously we weren’t the first visitors with this problem and there is a designated area in the carpark where you can drop and lock up your trailer while you explore.

Despite the heat, I enjoyed exploring Western Plains Zoo. The exhibits are well thought out and the meandering layout of the park means it never feels crowded – I didn’t realise how many people were there until we tried to buy a cold drink and saw the queue at the café! It was nice being able to just sit and watch the animals without feeling rushed or having to peer over the shoulders of other visitors. Make the most of your two day entry and take your time to get to know some of the residents.

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