Belfast Zoo is committed to worldwide conservation
Belfast Zoo owes its origins to the early public transport system.
Horse drawn trams, run by the Belfast Street Tramway Company, and the steam tramway of the Cavehill and Whitewell Tramway Company carried passengers from Belfast to the outlying villages of Whitewell and Glengormley.
In 1911, the line was taken over by the Belfast Corporation who decided to build the Bellevue playground and pleasure gardens at the end of the line to encourage custom.
During the 1920-30s, Bellevue was a popular destination for day excursions and, in 1933, it was decided to have a 'representative zoological collection’ on the site.
In 1934, five hectares on either side of the Grand Floral Staircase were laid out as Bellevue Zoo. In the first year there were 284,713 visitors.
Currently over 258,000 people visit Belfast Zoo every year. It is home to over 1200 animals and 160 species, the majority of which are critically endangered due to habitat destruction, deforestation and human poaching.
The site spans 22 hectares and is located on Cavehill in the north of the city, an area of natural beauty from which you can see panoramic views of Belfast and Scotland on a clear day.
The zoo carries out valuable conservation work and participates in European and world-wide breeding programmes in order to ensure the survival of many endangered animals.
New exhibits for 2007 include the Rainforest House, where visitors can experience an immersive environment combining tropical plants with climatic sensitive animals such as Jasmine, the two-toed sloth.
Other members of the zoo family include the fossa, a lemur-hunting carnivore from Madagascar and the Nile lechwe - a rare antelope from southern Sudan.
The chimpanzees and gorillas may hold your attention, but the primate lover will look out for the purple-faced langurs from Sri Lanka and the Francois langurs from North Vietnam, two unusual Asian monkeys that are now thriving and breeding in the unlikely setting of a Northern Ireland hillside.
At the smaller end of the primate order, the zoo also holds a marvellous collection of marmosets and tamarins, including such rarities as the pied tamarin.
At the very top of the zoo, you will find the Malayan sun bears and the Red River hogs, the handsome swine from West Africa.
After enjoying the spectacular views across Belfast Lough, you can begin your descent, taking in such sights as African hunting dogs, red pandas, barbary lions and white-tailed sea eagles. And a free flight aviary provides a walk-through opportunity to see, amongst other things, the bald Ibis from South Africa.