Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located on the outskirts of Dubbo in central New South Wales. It is about five and a half hours drive from Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle.
Western Plains Zoo opened in 1977 and was the first Australian open range zoo. The zoo was built primarily to provide breeding facilities suited to large plains dwelling animals and to provide suitable habitat for plains grazing animals. The zoo now has over 1,000 different animals from all continents of the world. There are no cages or fences at Western Plains – the animals are behind concealed moats to separate them from the public. As well as being a major tourist attraction, the Zoo has an education centre, a research centre and is an important centre for endangered species breeding programs and conservation programs
There is a 6km road circuit through the Zoo, with animal exhibits and picnic grounds along the way. Most of the animals can be seen from the road but fro some you will need to take a short walk. Taronga Western Plains Zoo is like a safari park, and there are a number of options for getting around. You can drive around the circuit in your own car, or hire a bike or electric cart. Of course you can also walk round the 15km of bush trails, through bushland with lakes and waterholes
Animals to be seen at the zoo include a range of exotic animals such as African Lion, African Wild Dog, Asian Elephant, African Elephant, Bison, Black Rhinoceros, Bongo, Camel, Cheetah, Galapagos Tortoise, Giraffe, One-horned Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Wolf, Meerkat, Oriental Small-clawed Otter, Ape, Spider Monkey, Sumatran Tiger, Tapir, Gibbon, White Rhinoceros, Zebra. The Zoo also features Australian animals such as Dingoes and Wombats.
The best times to see the animals are in the early morning when they are most active, and also during feeding times and keeper activities. When you arrive, make sure you collect your guide to the numerous tours and keeper talks that are scheduled for throughout the day. These keeper talks are included in your admission price, and give you a great opportunity to see the animals close up and find out more about them from their keepers. Keeper Activities include Meerkat feeding, Black Rhino talk and feeding, Otter talk and feeding, Hippopotamus talk and feeding, African Elephant talk Ape feeding Galapagos Tortoise feeding, Wombat talk and feeding.
For an even closer experience with the animals, you can take part in one of the Animal Encounter activities. These encounters are not included in general admission, and bookings are required for most of them. Animals Encounters available include:
- Wild Africa Encounter – get up close with the endangered Black Rhinoceros and White Rhinoceros.
- Big Cat Encounters – meet a Sumatran Tiger or African Lion
- Giraffes in Focus – feed and get your photo taken with the giraffes (available March to November)
- Early Morning Walk – behind the scenes stroll to find out more about the animals and the zoo.
The Zoo also has night time activities such as the “Roar and Snore” adventure. This is an overnight program which includes dinner, followed by a night time safari walk through the Zoo led by a Zoo educator. Visitors stay overnight in a four person safari tent under the stars. Breakfast is provided, followed by an early morning behind the scenes walk, and you can stay the rest of the day at no additional cost.
Facilities for visitors include cafes and eating places where you can buy hot or cold foods. There are also free gas barbecues at the various picnic grounds around the zoo. The zoo shop sells gifts, souvenirs and clothing.
Western Plains Zoo is open every day except Christmas Day from 9am to 4pm with gates closing at 5pm. Tickets are valid for two consecutive days – a great idea for those who can’t fit everything into one day.