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Pune Municipal Corporation established Peshwe Park Zoo at the foothills of Parwati in 1953 where the Peshwas had their private Menagerie. The zoo was established on a limited land of around 7 acres where the animals used to be housed and displayed to the visitors in concrete cages behind the iron bars. It was a typical traditional zoo of that time wherein only the objective was a recreation for visitors.

The formation of Central Zoo Authority in 1992 totally changed the scenario of the Indian zoos. They were transformed into scientific wildlife conservation centre. With a view of developing a zoo which will fulfil the objectives of naturalistic animal housing, conservation breeding, wildlife conservation education and research, a new site with a land area of 130 acres at Katraj was selected. The development work initiated in 1996. The new zoo inaugurated on 14th March 1999 and renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and Wildlife Research centre. Initially, the infrastructure development in the form of naturalistic enclosures for the ungulates, primates, sloth bear, Royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant etc. was established. The old reptile park established in 1986 was also merged with the zoo.