The Bowmanville Zoo, founded in 1919, is the oldest private zoo in North America. Today, it is home to hundreds of animals who live on 55 picturesque acres in the heart of Bowmanville, Ontario, about 1 hour east of Toronto.

From exotic animals like giraffes and lions, to more familiar friends like horses and turtles, all of our animals live in large open areas, receive the best veterinary care in the world, and most of all, are loved and cared for every day by the dedicated professionals who work at the zoo.

Many of our animals are famous. Baghera, our black panther (technically he is a jaguar), starred in the TV series Amazon, produced by Peter Benchley. Limba, our Asian elephant made a big splash with Adam Sandler in Billy Madison, and two of our camels (Sam and Sally) appeared in The Thirteenth Warrior starring Antonio Banderas. Jonas, a Bengal tiger trained at the Bowmanville Zoo, recently starred in Life of Pi, the academy award-winning film directed by Ang Lee.


Life of Pi, movie, Jonas

Poster for the movie Life of Pi. The composite image is of Jonas, a Bengal tiger trained at Bowmanville Zoo.


Many of our alumni are famous, too. Two African lions, Bongo and Caesar (brothers), were featured in the movie The Ghost and the Darkness, starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, requiring Bowmanville trainers to spend six months in South Africa on location.


Ghost and Darkness photo

Bongo and Caesar, trained at the Bowmanville Zoo.


Our mission is simple: to provide a fun and educational experience for all our visitors. We do everything possible to ensure our customers enjoy their day at the zoo, but we also do everything we can to instill a sense of wonder and responsibility. At every turn we infuse the experience with information and knowledge so that our visitors go away better informed and, hopefully, inspired. We offer special programs for kids and adults to learn more about animals and their state in the wild. We work with local schools to develop programs for students. We fund research in the field. We are determined to make a difference.

The animals get the best veterinary care possible. Zoo owner Michael Hackenberger is married to Dr. Wendy Korver. Korver owns the Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic, which provides veterinary care to all the zoo animals. Dr. Korver’s practice was voted Clinic of the Year (in all of Canada), by the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians. It has also won the Clarington Readers Choice Award for Best Clinic seven years in a row (2006 through 2012). Click here to go to their website: Bowmanville Veternary Clinic.