ASHEBORO, NC – North Carolina Zoo officials saw a record number of guests —870,882 — pass through the entry gates during its 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended on June 30. This year’s total attendance exceeds last year’s by nearly 75,000 guests and is second only to the attendance record set during the Zoo’s 1994-95 fiscal year— the year when the Zoo opened its long-awaited North American region. North America’s opening added 250 acres of natural habitats—abounding with polar, grizzly and black bears; elk, bison, cougars and other wildlife—to the Zoo’s then existing 250-acre expanse of habitats representing African wildlife.

While this year's mild winter temperatures likely helped boost Zoo attendance, the largest single explanation for this rise in popularity is the addition of a growing number of nature-based, educational experiences that appeal to a wide range of guests of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to providing one of the world’s most impressive series of encounters with wild animals living in natural settings, the North Carolina Zoo offers down-to-earth, authentic and memorable ways for families to play and stay together.

Last year the Zoo opened Zoofari, An African Wildlife Adventure, which takes guests on an open-air safari bus inside the 40-acre grassland habitat featuring African animals such as rhinoceros and antelope. For 2017, the Zoo expanded the popular Zoofari experience with tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon, Thursday–Sunday. New this year are the Dragonfly paddle boats on the scenic North America Lake, plus a Dino bus ride past some very big, very realistic robotic dinosaurs that lets guests settle back and enjoy the sights. Two enchanting playgrounds—one for toddlers and one for everyone else—can engage families for hours and connect kids to nature. Air Hike—which lets guests negotiate nature from the vantage point of the treetops—gives the Zoo’s more adventuresome guests an interesting physical challenge.

This year’s attendance totals also received a small boost from a minor change in the Zoo’s accounting practices. For the first time, the Zoo counted children younger than two years of age (total 40,997) in its attendance figures to more accurately reflect the number and the demographics of people enjoying the park. But, even if this demographic is subtracted from the year’s total, the Zoo still posted the second-highest attendance numbers in its history and the highest attendance numbers seen for more than two decades.

About the North Carolina Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo offers experiences that are just not available in other zoos. Five miles of tree-lined nature trails pass by the nearly 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants that thrive inside the world’s largest natural habitat zoo. The Zoo’s position as a leader in international wildlife conservation infuses each visit with learning opportunities for saving wildlife and wild places. And, while African giants (elephants, rhinos, and giraffes) and North American icons (polar bears, cougars, elk, and bison) surround guests on the pathways, one-of-a-kind playgrounds and the Zoo’s renowned public art collection add to the enchantment of each visit.  Located in the center of the state in Asheboro, it is convenient to visit from anywhere in North Carolina and surrounding states. The North Carolina Zoo welcomes over 850,000 guests each year. Plan your adventure at

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources 
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development. 
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit