Chennai, the then Madras had the distinction of having the first zoo in India, which was started during the year 1855. Factors like air and sound pollution, insufficient place for accommodating the animals and highly dense human population around the corporation zoo became a health hazard to animals of the zoo. Hence it was decided to shift the zoo from Moor market area to Vandalur Reserve Forest in the out-skirts of Chennai city and work for the establishment of the zoo was started in 1976. Arignar Anna Zoological Park is one of the biggest zoos in South East Asia extending over an area of 602 ha.
The estimated initial cost of the project was about Rs. 7.30 crores. The zoo was opened to public during the year 1985. The existing landscape was utilized as it is and all the animals are exhibited in large open moated island type enclosure with simulated environment. The entire area of 602 ha. has been clothed with vegetation both by natural and some artificial regeneration.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park is one of the modern and scientifically managed zoos of the Country with 262 full time staff apart from petty contract workers. The Zoological Park is the pride of the State and has attained excellence in the Captive Breeding Programme for endangered species and in the field of zoo education and creating awareness about the conservation of natural resources. The functions of the zoo are carried out by several departments/sections namely Administration, Animal welfare, Commissary (Store), Transport, Research, Education and Awareness, Veterinary, Horticulture, Security and Sanitation. The zoo has a well-equipped zoo kitchen, zoo hospital and quarantine facility. A zoo school was opened in the year 2000 for the teachers, students and general public where regular zoo education and conservation programmes are conducted. The zoo has adequate number of Battery Operated vehicles to transport visitors to the animal exhibits through the network of internal roads. Several service roads have been laid for serving the animal enclosures.