Bioparco di Roma is a 17-hectare (42-acre) zoological garden located on part of the original Villa Borghese estate in Rome. There are 1,114 animals of 222 species maintained.
The zoo was conceived in 1908 to hold exotic animal species for exhibition. Unlike other zoos at the time which mainly worked for scientific criteria, this zoo was designed for the entertainment and amusement of the people. The zoo covered 12 hectares (30 acres) and was erected in the northern part of the Villa Borghese estate; it was opened on 5 January 1911.
The zoo was designed by Carl Hagenbeck, who had already opened a zoo in Hamburg Stellingen. The park was built in the style of that in Hamburg: ditches and pits instead of bars, and generous green spaces.
This initial success did not hold. Attempts were made to stock the zoo with especially rare and exotic animals. Various park expansions were undertaken and in 1926 a further expansion was planned into the neighboring red deer park. In 1933, the architect Raffaele De Vico began his work in the new areas, which were to hold two main attractions: the large aviary and the reptile house which opened in 1935.
After the Second World War the zoo began to deteriorate, although many areas were renovated and others fully rebuilt. In 1970, the reptile house had to be closed due to its ailing condition; its improvements took about nine years and it was finally re-opened in 1983.
The idea to transform the zoo into a biopark was first suggested in 1994. In 1997, a master plan was produced based on the principles of the Gilman Foundation. In April 1998, the organization Bioparco S.p.A. was established to be financed through the city of Rome with 51%, from Costa Edutainment with 39%, and from Cecchi Gori with 10%.