Situated in the Xicheng District of Beijing (2km west of Xizhimen subway station), next to the Beijing Exhibition Hall and Moscow Restaurant, the Beijing Zoo is one of the oldest and largest zoological parks in China. With an area of approximately 90 hectares (222 acres), including 8.6 hectares (21 acres) of aquarium, the zoo is home to about 5000 land animals of 500 different species and more than 10000 marine animals of 500 different species. Ever since its founding in 1906 during Qing Dynasty, Beijing Zoo has received much attention and now attracts over six million visitors from home and abroad every year.
The Beijing Zoo houses 16 large animal exhibition halls located in the east district and west district separately, including the lion and tiger hill, bear hill, monkey hill, nocturnal animal house, Gorilla Hall, panda house, elephant house, reptile world, and some others. It has a diverse collection of endangered species such as Tibetan gazelle, Siberian tiger, Przewalski's horse, yak, and rare animals endemic to China such as South China Tiger, golden snub-nosed monkey, white-lipped deer, Chinese Giant Salamander, and also Giant Pandas, which are the most popular animals in the zoo. For those families with kids looking for a panda tour in China, Beijing zoo is highly recommended, providing you are not able to join the panda volunteer program in Chengdu.
However, the collection also covers many rare animals and wildlife out there in the world, from the polar bears to American bison, African elephants, zebras, kangaroos and so many others. Beijing zoo is also an important zoological research and conservation center in China that studies and breeds rare animals from various continents.
Beijing Aquarium is another highlight of Beijing Zoo. Opened in 1999, it is recognized as the biggest aquarium in China. It is home to a wide range of fish species - piranhas, frantic arapaima, precious Chinese sturgeons, California sea lions, white whale, huge sea elephants, etc. In the aquarium's Ocean Theater, visitors can enjoy wonderful shows performed by the dolphins, sea lions and whales.
The site of Beijing Zoo was initially a royal manor during Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It was elegantly constructed like a classical Chinese garden with pavilions, towers and lotus ponds set amidst natural scenery of grasslands, trees and hills. In addition to animals, Beijing zoo also allows visitors a sightseeing tour of some history sites and ancient Chinese architectures built in the Qing Dynasty.
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