Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Carol. Carol Wonders, “Is the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC the largest zoo in the world?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Carol!

Do you love animals? We do! Here in Wonderopolis we love to learn about all creatures, great and small. One fun way to see lots of animals in one trip is by visiting a local zoo.

Depending upon where you live, you may have several zoos nearby. You may also have other animal attractions nearby, such as game reserves. Unlike zoos, where animals are contained in their own shelters, game reserves allow wildlife to run free throughout their grounds.

Game reserves, many of which are located in Africa, allow people to sightsee and sometimes even hunt the animals. Zoos, on the other hand, care for animals for entertainment and educational purposes.

The word “zoo" was first used to describe the London Zoological Gardens in 1847. Up until that time, zoos were usually called menageries. Since zoos were often set up for the scientific study of animals, it was only natural that the word “zoo" would eventually come to refer to these places dedicated to zoology, which is the study of animals.

The idea of bringing together a collection of wild animals has ancient origins. The oldest such collection of animals is thought to have existed in Egypt in 3500 B.C. The collection is thought to have contained elephants and baboons. The first zoo in the United States — the Central Park Zoo — opened in New York City in 1860 and is still in operation.

Most zoos have special enclosures built specifically for each type of animal they house. These enclosures are meant to be as similar as possible to the animals' natural habitats. For example, penguins might be placed in a special enclosure that closely replicates the cold climate conditions they're used to in the wild.

So where's the largest zoo in the world? There are actually many zoos that claim to be the largest zoo in one way or another. It all depends upon what criteria you use to measure the size of the zoo. Here are some of the largest zoos in the United States:

If you measure size by the land area of the zoo, then the title of largest zoo goes to the Red McCombs Wildlife in Texas. This wildlife preserve contains 20 different animal species on over 12,000 acres of land.

If you measure size by the number of different species housed at the zoo, then the largest zoo would be the San Diego Zoo. One of the most famous zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo houses an astounding number of animals: over 4,500 animals from over 900 different species!

If you combine land area and number of species, one of the largest zoos has to be the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. It houses thousands of animals from hundreds of species on over 130 acres of land. It's no surprise that the Henry Doorly Zoo is the top paid attendance attraction in Nebraska!

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s brand-new Wonder of the Day might have you speaking a whole new language!