Culture & Events

Hamilton Zoo hits half-century on Good Friday

Hamilton Zoo is set to celebrate its half-century with a special family fun day.

Visitors on Good Friday will be treated to a party atmosphere with activities including free face painting, a bouncy castle, live music, spot prize draws and a sweet station and ice blocks for the kids.

Hamilton Zoo Visitor Experience Manager Justine Allen says the zoo’s staff members are looking forward to marking the occasion with the community.

“Hamilton Zoo is an icon for our city and region, and although we’re always looking ahead and planning the future, it’s fitting to celebrate where we’re come from,” she says.

As well as extra activities, the Hamilton Zoo keepers will be out and about giving extra talks for visitors and, where possible, the chance to get up close behind the scenes.

Special guests include children’s favourite characters Batman, Moana and Captain Hook. Hamilton Zoo’s founder Murray Powell will officially open the day at 11am and share in the festivities

Download the event map and talk schedule

Mr Powell and his wife Gloria opened the Hilldale Game Park in December 1969 after buying the land the Hamilton Zoo now sits on earlier in the year to continue his successful pheasant raising operation.

By 1979 the Hilldale Game Park had become a registered zoo and in 1981 the Hamilton City Council bought the zoo and the name was changed to Hamilton Zoo.

Hamilton Zoo Operations Manager Catherine Nichols knows the Powells well, having worked at Hamilton Zoo for 17 years.

“Murray was ahead of his time with his desire to build large areas for the animals and that’s something we continue to do today,” says Mrs Nichols.

In 2006 the Hamilton Zoo Conservation Fund was developed to aid in supporting national and international projects by collecting and distributing funds raised from public donations, 10% of revenue from animal encounters and proceeds from special conservation events.

Today the zoo is home to more than 600 native and exotic animals and welcomed just under 140,000 visitors in 2018.

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