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How Much Does It Cost to Open and Run a Zoo?

Private Zoo Business

Do you want to start a zoo business and want to know the cost? If YES, here is a cost breakdown for opening and running a zoo and the profit margin / ROI.

Zoos are family – friendly attractions where everyone can see their favourite animals, learn more about nature, and enjoy related entertainment. These places also function as wildlife preserves for some of the most endangered species. In some ways, a zoo functions like a botanical garden or a museum, making money from a combination of admission, merchandise, private donors, institutional donors and aid from city and state governments.

How Zoos Work and Make Money

Zoos can charge based on their size and demand. For instance, one adult ticket to the San Diego Zoo is $54 for adults and $44 for children. Plus, owners can charge for a variety of experiences, including special breakfasts or animal shows.

Note that these special endeavours can easily add on an extra $30 to $50 a day without deducting very much from the overall budget.

Although most zoos are technically non – profits, they can make enough money to generate sizable salaries. However, zoos have been cutting back on their exhibits as of late — even as they continue to raise the price of admission. This is due to inordinately high bills and cuts in city or donor funding.

Running a zoo is never easy, but in economic downturns like we are having, the difficulties multiply. If a museum has certain pieces that are costly to maintain it can put those pieces in storage. Museums can also close entire wings to the public to cut back on maintenance costs.

Zoos can’t do all these because their collection and artefacts are alive. You can’t close the cheetah exhibit without doing something with the cheetahs, and you can’t sell the cheetahs to raise money for the zoo, since it’s forbidden.

Even if a zoo decides to take on the daunting task of unloading some of its animals, it can take months or even years to place animals with other zoos. Cutting back on the animals in a zoo’s collection can have negative side effects, too. Admission revenue can reduce drastically if the public doesn’t want to visit the smaller collection or a zoo loses big attractions.

Estimated Cost Breakdown to Open and Run a Zoo

The costs of running any zoo will depend on the type of animals you have and the land you use. But Irrespective of these factors, you will need to pay for their food and care, as well as staff to maintain the grounds and run concession stands around the park.

It’s not unusual for a park to spend $10,000 to $12,000 per day (or more) just to keep up with costs, plus millions more on elaborate exhibits. Below are the few crucial expenses you should expect while running a zoo.

  1. Building and Construction

Building a zoo structure can be very complex. Have it in mind there is more to it than just building homes for animals. When constructing buildings in the zoo, numerous issues have to be addressed. The soil must be of good quality so it can handle large structures.

Additionally, the site itself must be accessible and spacious. Hosting successful exhibits and other shows requires this. Not to mention of course, that it must be able to accommodate large crowds.

  1. Necessary Protections

Note that the costs of running a zoo tend to be heightened by the weather factor. When making homes for various animals, extreme forms of weather must be accounted for. Is the area prone to intense heat? How heavy does the rain affect the site? If a hurricane comes, can the structure survive and protect the animals?

You have to consider all these things and plan accordingly. Experts in the field need to assess the efficiency of the building. During construction, its durability will be assessed. All of these require a lot of money. After a hurricane or heavy rain, the edifices will need to be inspected or checked for damages. These activities cost money too.

  1. Acquiring the Animals

Indeed there are so many issues to analyze here and each one is very crucial to the success of the zoo. In no small way do they raise the costs of running a zoo. First you have to choose what animals to bring in. Of course these animals cost money to bring to the zoo.

Once you have decided, you need to conduct research on every single one. Where are they from? What kind of food do they eat? Does it need a body of water to live in? What type of shelter is required? Does it need plenty of sunshine or does it require cool weather? Does it prefer shade or the open air?

  1. Feeding

Taking care of zoo animals involves designing diets to meet a variety of nutritional needs. Their daily menu covers shanks of beef, strawberries and everything in – between.

For instance, wild snowy egrets eat fish, crabs, snakes and amphibians, scaring their prey up from shallow pools by stirring the water with their feet. Their meals are made up of mealworms, smelt and a specially formulated supplement to provide them all the nutrients they need.

To feed one snowy egret costs around 83 cents per day—or $303 a year. Feeding green snakes crickets and mealworms will cost about seven cents a day, or roughly $25.55 per year. Feeding a flock of Chilean flamingos’ costs about $29 per day or $10,567 per year!

It will cost about $1.85 a day—or $675 a year—to feed one aardvark. While feeding one Mississauga cost $0.60 a week! On average, feeding each dwarf crocodile costs $0.50 per week—less than $100 per year. Feeding kangaroos costs about $9 a day, adding up to $3,300 a year.

  1. Safety Precautions

Understanding the behaviour and habits of each animal is very important. When determining the costs of running a zoo, this cannot be ignored. The personnel in charge must know how far the animal can jump, so the right wall can be created.

Does it dig the ground, or destroy walls? You will also have to make sure it’s comfortable. If it’s shy, you should put the animal in an area with plenty of shade. Put it in places where it most feels at home, whether it is rocky, swampy etc.

  1. Zoo Staff

Note that part of the expenses goes to the people running the place. These include the exhibit designers, animal caretakers, curators, guides and many more.


The costs of starting and running a zoo are considerably very enormous. But they are absolutely necessary. Note that without the right funding, the safety of the animals will not be guaranteed, hence its importance. Over the years, zoos have been steadily adding attractions like water slides or other types of rides for their patrons.

These attractions are not only fun, they also allow owners to raise the cost of admission without threatening ticket sales. It also provides them with the basic funds to cater and run their zoos efficiently.