National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka (also called Colombo Zoo or Dehiwala Zoo) is a zoological garden in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, founded in 1936. Its sprawling areas are host to a variety of animals and birds. The zoo exhibits animals but also places an emphasis on animal conservation and welfare, and education.
The zoo has 3000 animals and 350 species as of 2005. The annual revenue is LKR 40 million.
The zoo exchanges its residents with other zoological gardens for breeding purposes.
Sri Lanka has a history of collecting and keeping wild animals as pets by some Sinhalese kings as well as some British. What is known today as National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka was founded by John Hagenbeck in the late 1920s. It was closed at beginning of World War II in 1939 because of the owner of that company was a German. After liquidation of Zoological Garden Company in 1936, the government acquired much of the collection and added it to the Dehiwala Zoo (Zoological Garden of Ceylon) collection. Although Dehiwala Zoo officially began operating in 1939, an impressive animal collection already existed there as part of Hagenback company’s holding area, where public could visit.
Major Aubrey Neil Weinman, OBE was the first Director of the Dehiwala Zoo. During his period various programs were developed, such as introducing more native and foreign species, educational and conservation programs, improving the facilities and infrastructures and more.
By 1969, half of the collection consisted of native species including virtually all of the mammals represented. In 1973, the zoo had 158 mammal species, 259 bird species, 56 reptile species and 7 fish species. However, not much has been reported on Zoo progress until the 1980s.