Approximately 20 000 men, women, and children flocked to the Johannesburg Zoo for birthday celebrations.

It was a sheer coincidence that Joburg Zoo’s birthday celebration fell on Human Right’s Day, March 21, giving them the chance to create awareness around everyone’s “right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations” (Section 24b of the South African Constitution).

Executive Director, Louise Gordon, stated their priority has and always will be conservation and education. The zoo is involved in rehabilitation and exchange programmes on and off site to broaden their reach and ability in the environmental sphere.

She said “if people don’t know, they won’t conserve,”: therefore, the zoo has slashed their entrance fee from R120 per adult to just R20 during their birthday month to encourage affordable access.

Elephants enjoying all the attention at Joburg Zoo.
Photo: Victoria Hill
A lazy tiger enjoying the view at Johannesburg Zoo.
Photo: Victoria Hill

The concrete jungle, namely Johannesburg, has long said goodbye to preconceived ideas about animal treatment in zoos. Instead, they have evolved and revolutionised themselves into being one of a few zoos in an urban setting that homes the Big Five. As part of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Johannesburg Zoo has a high standard to uphold, putting animal welfare first.

Whilst strolling around the enclosures, the many animals seemed to be having the time of their lives, with many sleeping under the sunny skies. Local artists were blaring tunes on the main stage, but Jenny Moodley, spokesperson for Joburg Zoo, assured the animals were protected from any harmful decibels by a buffering system actively established.

Johannesburg Zoo plays an integral role in the Wits community, because of the educational opportunities it affords to environmental and medical students. Moodley said the ongoing exchange programme between the university and zoo, allows the youth of South Africa to learn from all angles.

“For example, if we are doing an autopsy on one of our big species […] we invite the students to observe,” said Moodley. The zoo, therefore, offers Wits students a privileged opportunity to learn amongst South Africa’s natural heritage.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Nathi Mvula, a senior environmental education specialist, shared his views on why he believes Johannesburg Zoo reaching their latest milestone is important:

An interview with Joburg Zoo’s senior educational environmental specialist, Nathi Mvula. Video creds: Victoria Hill

To have opened in 1904, and to still be open today, Joburg Zoo has proved itself a national icon and beacon for wildlife conservation.