In The Beginning

The starting point of Malaya’s National Zoo was a Tiger, three Orangutans, six Crocodiles and some other animals.

It all started with a miniature zoo set-up at an exhibition, and the person responsible for it was the Father of Zoo Negara – Mr V. M. Hutson (later known as Tan Sri Hutson). Back then, zoos were very rare, and caged animals on show were very unique, and so the people of Malaya showed great interest in them. Realizing this, Mr Hutson had the idea to start a zoo.

But there was a problem, starting a zoo was a big project and the Government was unable to support it due to the massive sum of money that is needed. Yet, the government granted the request of assisting the zoo by exempting the taxes and entertainment duties and with a small annual subvention.

The working party at that time than recommended that a Zoological Society should be set-up to finance and manage the zoo. And so on 2 January 1962, The Malayan Zoological Society was officially registered.

A year later, on 14 November 1963, The National Zoological Park was officially opened by Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and the entrance fee then was 50 cents for adults and 20 cents for children, operating 6 days a week.


Fun Fact: Although the zoo was officially named ‘Zoo Negara’ (National Zoo), it was known as the ‘Zoo in the Jungle’ due to its forested surrounding.


The Zoo’s Milestones

Not long after the zoo was opened, criticism started to come in, complaining that the zoo was too far from the city centre. Yet, the critics were proven wrong when on 14 November 1966, just three years after the grand opening of the zoo, the National Zoo of Malaysia has marked its 1,000,000th visitor. The millionth person who walks through was Miss Juliana Chan, a 19-year-old student. She was then presented with a commemorative plaque, cartons of cigarettes and a one-year free pass to the zoo.

Zoo Negara eventually gained more popularity when more animals were brought in. And one of them was when the first two Giraffes from Kenya was brought in. It became so popular that the Messrs. Malayan Tobacco Ltd made a full-colour film depicting the capture which cost over $120,000 in the making and distributed in cinemas and television worldwide.


Fun Fact: Ever since the opening of Zoo Negara, the Malayan Zoological Society has always taken a sincere interest towards the underprivileged, which is why since the opening of the zoo, they are committed to always allow the disabled people to visit for free.


The Myth

Many outside the Society have long assumed that Malaysia’s National Zoo is a government institution or heavily subsidized by it. But the truth is, it is NOT. Until today, Zoo Negara is still managed by the Zoological Society, so if you’re interested to fund the zoo by donation, adopt an animal or even become a volunteer, please feel free to visit the Zoo Negara official website for more information.

Through the years, The Zoological Society has constantly expanded and increase the attraction of Zoo Negara by developing a bigger car park to cater its growing visitors, build a stage for animal shows, included a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant and more. And all the effort was paid off when Zoo Negara reached another milestone by having its highest annual attendance in history in 1986 of a total of over 1 million visitors.

Other achievements of the zoo were The Humboldt Penguin Exhibit being introduced in 1979, the Bird House completed in 1987, the Reptile House officially opened in 1988, the Ape Centre launched in 1993 and the Mixed African Exhibit in 1994. These are a few evidence that the Zoological Society is constantly improving the zoo for the people.


Still Thriving

Maintaining Malaysia’s National Zoo was not an easy task. As the zoo struggles to expand in development and the loss of interest from the people, many challenges had to be dealt with. Yet the Society never gave up. Constantly working hard to improve the zoo with one objective in mind – “To foster and stimulate an interest in the fauna of the world by establishing and maintaining a National Zoo in or near the Federal Capital, and to assist the States of Malaysia in the formation and operation of zoological parks”.

Until today, the Zoological Society is working hard to sustain Zoo Negara, hoping it to be one of the best local attraction in the country. But the truth is, this dream cannot be achieved without the support of the people.

We hope that the National Zoo of Malaysia being a place of joy and laughter to many Malaysians in the past will not stop here, but to continue to bring enjoyment to the people for more years to come. So, if you ever have time during the holidays, do consider paying a visit to the zoo. Hopefully, after knowing the rich history of Zoo Negara, you’ll be able to see it in a very different light as you walk through it on your next visit.

This is an adaptation write up from the original article “Journey Through Time”. To read the original article, please click here.