Dehiwala Zoological Gardens

Roughly a sprawling 24 acres of floral and faunal zoological gardens, offering one a glimpse of the vast expanse of wildlife and plantlife which thrives in the Sri Lankan wilderness; the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens has earned a repute as one of the oldest zoos in Asia and is the national zoo in Sri Lanka. Home to hundreds of exotic and indigenous forms, local bred and foreign, the Gardens are a focal point to immerse yourself in the beauty of all that’s nature and to witness varied species in their raw, natural element.

Best Known For

  • The vast diversity of species housed; the overall number may vary from 2,000 to 3,000, with species breeding and the free living of birds being contributing factors. The Gardens are home to 72 species of Mammals, 65 species of Birds, 31 species of Reptiles, 89 species of Fish, 03 families of Amphibians and 30 species of Butterflies.
  • Housing rare and endangered species; the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens lays a focus on wildlife conservation, with some of its animals classed as endangered or aren’t commonly found on the isle. The Gardens often engages with zoological entities in varied countries for animal exchanges for breeding purposes as well.

Interesting Facts

  • Despite the massive number of animals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in varied sectors of the zoo, the structure of the Gardens is such that one does not miss witnessing a single living form, provided one follows the numbered signs which guides one through.
  • In the primates’ sector, lemurs, apes and approximately 16 varieties of monkeys perch, including the endemic Purple Faced Leaf Monkey and the Toque Monkey.
  • Prominent amongst the carnivores are the majestic cats native to local and foreign shores, such as the Sri Lankan Leopard, one of the isle’s top predators, the African Lion and the orange and white Bengal Tigers. The Tigers’ enclosure is slightly different from the traditional, with a strong glass wall separating the viewers from the animals, affording an as-close-as-you-can-get view of the large pacing cat who generally lingers quite near the boundary. Additionally present at the zoo are the smaller Fishing Cat, the Rusty Spotted Cat and the Jungle Cat, all indigenous to Sri Lanka.
  • A large space in the heart of the zoo is dedicated to one of the regal creatures to walk the earth; swaying from side to side in all their glory are the Asian and African elephants.
  • The hooved family makes their presence known; from the Black Rhinoceros, dubbed highly endangered and the second largest animal on land, to the Mule and the Horse and from native species such as the Spotted Deer to the exotic Mongolian Deer. Of the African continent are a few; the Giraffe, the Scimmitar Horned Oryx and the Greater Kudu (hippotragus niger).
  • Standing tall for decades as of now, the aquarium is divided into freshwater, marine and brackish water sectors. Fish species, corals, mollusks, echinoderms and arthropods swim through; one learns about their behaviour patterns, colonization and competition from informative slides helpfully displayed next to each tank. Observe varieties of species endemic to Sri Lanka, with the zoo having additionally facilitated the breeding of some of the very rare. The amphibian section has 6 species, each housed in conditions almost natural to their habitat.
  • The reptile house is home to 32 species, including those foreign bred; from varied crocodiles including the smallest crocodile species in the world to giant tortoises and from iguanas to a diverse range of snakes the likes of the Albino Sri Lankan Cobra, the Python and the Green Anaconda.
  • Akin to a mini forest of sorts, the butterfly garden offers a walk through; a surreal opportunity to glimpse 30 species of butterflies fluttering about the expanse of greenery and flora which makes up their home.
  • Be it the flying, the flightless, the aquatic or the semi-aquatic, birds have varied sectors dedicated to their natural surroundings. Two large walk-in aviaries, one for the endemic and indigenous birds and the other for the exotic awaits, indulging one in an upfront, close look at the feathered in their natural habitat. A pond is marked as the territory of swans and the other for herons, cormorants, egrets and pelicans.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • Best visit when the afternoon sun isn’t at its peak for one will be wandering for hours, for miles in the zoo under the blistering heat.
  • The Dehiwala Zoological Gardens is one of the main local attractions and the ticket queue is generally quite long, particularly during local school vacation in April and December. It’s advised that one visits perhaps in the late morning or in the evening during this period so as to avoid the general queue which lines up somewhere around the afternoon.
  • In order to get the full zoological experience, one will have to pay close attention to the numbered signboards acting as guidance points throughout your journey through the zoo. It’s quite easy to get distracted by an animal or two and lose your way therefore the numbers are one’s saving grace. Should you be lost, a summary of the zoo pathways complete with the signboard numbers and the animal names can be seen on a large information board displayed at the entrance and in varied parts of the zoo.
  • A number of shops and eateries large and small are located around the zoo, therefore one has ample refreshment opportunities.
  • Make sure that you carry a water bottle for refreshment and a cap or hat with you to block off the sun.
  • Offering tidbits of food to the animals is inadvisable as the animals will then be accustomed to expecting food from external forces and may disrupt its general behavioural habits.
  • It is advised that one refrains from making loud remarks or noises which may impact the animal.
  • Adhere strictly to the signs limiting one to certain areas as the areas warded off maybe due to the area in question being the home of a dangerous animal or maybe harmful for access to visitors.
  • The general boundary between visitor and animal should not be violated for the safety purposes of both.
Title image by: Dehiwala Zoological Gardens The information displayed is provided by Dehiwala Zoological Gardens


Local Adults
LKR 110
Local Children Between 3 and 12 Years of Age
LKR 30
SAARC Adults
LKR 800
SAARC Children Between 3 and 12 Years of Age
LKR 400
European Adults
LKR 3,000
European Children Between 3 and 12 Years of Age
LKR 1,500

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