Southern Nevada Zoo: Entertaining and Educational


Written by Joe Buda

One of the best kept secrets in Las Vegas is the Southern Nevada Zoo. 

The Southern Nevada Zoo has been serving Las Vegas for over 30 years. Located on North Rancho Drive, near Texas Station, the zoo averages 45,000 visitors a year.

According to Pat Dingle, Director of the Southern Nevada Zoo, the priority of the zoo, above all else, is the animals.  The zoo is all about the proper care and attention to the animals.

The zoo is “the community wildlife learning resource center,” Dingle noted. This has provided hundreds-of-thousands of kids from Southern Nevada their first experience with animal life other than a dog or a cat.

The zoo has “been an authorized activity of the Clark County School District since 1983,” remarked Dingle. 

One of the benefits of the zoo, Dingle added, is that it provides a nice, intimate experience and is designed to be enjoyed in one or two hours, which accommodates the Las Vegas lifestyle.


The zoo is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, managed and operated by the non-profit Nevada Zoological Foundation.  The zoo does not have an advertising budget, which makes getting the word out challenging. 

The zoo is” involved with the international conservation and breeding of rare and endangered,” Dingle mentioned. “In fact we are one of the key players in the world in the conservation and breeding of fossas.”

A fossa, as features in the hit movie Madagascar, is considered to be “pound for pound the most ferocious predator on planet earth.”

The zoo got involved in the breeding of fossas due to their partnership with the San Diego Zoo.

The zoo partners with the San Diego Zoo in many other ways, according to Dingle. 

One of the animals received from the San Diego Zoo was the Barbary apes, which were received back in the 1980’s.  The Southern Nevada Zoo has the only family of Barbary apes in the United States.

The zoo is currently looking to get Barbary sheep as part of their partnership as well. 

The zoo also partners with other zoos from around the country.  They are expecting to receive a pair of king vultures from the St. Louis Zoo around Labor Day.

Another way the zoo is unique is that it contains the largest collection of swamp wallabies in the United States.  A swamp wallaby is a smaller version of a kangaroo. 

Along with animals, the zoo features Southern Nevada fossils of both animals and plants.  Some of the plant fossils date back 75 – 80 million years.

The zoo also features gemstones from Southern Nevada as well.

The zoo offers an intern program. There are approximately 30 kids currently enrolled in the program.

One message Dingle wants to convey to people is that “it’s your zoo.  Come enjoy.  It is entertaining for people of all ages.”

“It’s shaded, confortable, and has benches everywhere,” added Dingle. 

The Southern Nevada Zoo is located at 1775 N Rancho Dr. and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The zoo is open year-round. 

 For more information on the zoo, please visit their website at


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