Located in Asheboro, in Randolph County is the North Carolina Zoo. The North Carolina Zoo is home to more than 1000 animals coming from roughly 250 species commonly found in North America and Africa.
It is heralded as the biggest 'walk-through' natural-habitat zoo in the whole world, with its land area of 1,371 acres or 555 hectares. It is the first of only two state-owned walk-in zoos in the country. It is open the whole year and plays host to about 700,000 visitors every year.
In 1968, the North Carolina legislature tasked the 9-member Zoological Garden Study Commission to create a zoo. The following year, the commission raised funds and its present site in Randolph County was chosen after a 2-year study by the commission. The land area where the zoo stands on today was then donated to the state. In 1972, Governor Robert Scott came to dedicate the site. By 1973, two tortoises from the Galapagos Island arrived, which marked the opening of an interim zoo the following year.
In 1974, zoo construction was started. It opened in August 13, 1976.
In 1978, Ham the Chimp, the first monkey who was launched to outer space, was moved to the NC Zoo from the Washington, DC-based National Zoo. He lived in the NC Zoo until his death in 1983.
The first permanent exhibit was initiated in 1979. The 1980s saw the opening of the Africa region exhibit, while the first North America exhibits were showcased in 1993.