Planet Zoo: A Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Zoo From Scratch

Frontier’s in-depth zoo simulator, Planet Zoo is simultaneously amazing and intimidating, especially if you’re a beginner and unfamiliar with the interface. Playing the first three scenarios starts off fairly manageably and the storyline will guide you through them. You’re learning and discovering and everything is great. The animals are gorgeous, your zoo is running nicely and you think you’ve got this.

Suddenly, Bernie appears to convince you that it’s a great idea to start a zoo entirely on your own, with no help from anyone. After all, you’ve done a whole three scenarios, you should be fully trained now. Oh, and you need to make sure you get a diverse range of animals and keep staff and guests happy. No pressure!

As you survey the empty landscape wondering what on earth to do next, don’t panic. The first thing you should do is pause the game. Now you have some breathing space to read our beginner’s guide to getting started in Planet Zoo.

Updated February 8th, 2021, By Helen Ashcroft: Planet Zoo is such a huge game that we’ve come back to this guide to update the information. At its heart, the game still involves getting animals, building them a suitable home, and then managing the staff who care for them and visitors who come to see them. However, over the past year, several free updates made to the game have changed how some of these things work.

There have been DLC packs that brought extra animals, scenarios, and maps to the game, as well as updates that added new features such as timed scenarios and sandbox mode. We’ve also learned a lot more about how to efficiently run in a zoo during the many, many hours playing since release. Now you can better learn how to manage your own zoo management career with this updated beginners guide.

Staff Facilities

You cannot run a zoo without staff and staff facilities. These essential buildings need to be placed in order for everything else to work. Just remember that fussy guests don’t like to see them, so try and place them off the main paths where possible.  You can see their negative effect radius using the overlay in the bottom left corner. Adding them into an enclosed area off to one side of the entrance often works well as a starting point. Then you can build up the zoo in front of them.

Here are the buildings you’ll need and what they do. Don’t worry if you get confused about how many there are, the notifications will tell you what’s missing.

Trade Centre

This is where your animals are sent when you buy or adopt them from the marketplace. From here they will be transported to their appropriate exhibits.

While initially buildings are better placed near the entrance for ease of building, the trade center will become less efficient as the zoo grows. A good tip is to add a more central staff area later on and relocate the trade center to it. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting a while for those animals to ship to their exhibits.


Mechanics require a workshop in order to carry out repairs. They can also use it to research new zoo facilities, including new themes and buildings.

The location for this doesn’t matter as much, so keeping it in your initial group of facilities is fine. This is because you can always add extra workshops as the zoo grows to help mechanics be more efficient.

Research Centre

Your vets will conduct research about your different animals here. Each animal you adopt will unlock its research panel as it enters your zoo. Vets can then research new enrichment items and other objects for them. They can also research diseases to help prevent them from occurring or identify and treat them faster if they do.

Keeping this close to a quarantine and vet clinic is a wise idea so you can shift staff priorities when required.

Vet Center

Here is where you can treat any sick animals and cure them. Vets should stop tasks if there is a sick animal and move it to here or to a quarantine. However, if you see a sick animal notification it’s worth checking if the vet is en route.

We also recommend having an extra vet that isn’t researching so they can check the animal’s welfare and identify issues faster.


It’s recommended that new animals enjoy a stint in quarantine before they are introduced into their enclosure. This can help prevent the spread of disease, especially if they are joining an established group. Vets will also heal any injuries they find. These are especially common with animals that don’t come from other zoos.

Placing your quarantine near the Trade Centre and Vet Centre is recommended for easy transfer.

Keeper Hut

The keeper huts are where your zookeepers will prepare food for the animals. As such they should be placed near enclosures. You also need to make sure they are included in the staff’s work areas.

They do have negative debuffs, like all staff buildings, but are small so can be hidden more easily. One way to manage these staff buildings is to have a staff path leading to an area with staff facilities grouped together and then build enclosures around it with the keeper entrances facing the central hub.

Staff Room

Staff require downtime so try and place these rest buildings near clusters of employees. A staff room near your research buildings, vendors, and exhibits is recommended.

There are two sizes of staff room but placing small staff rooms in more locations is often more effective. You can also set benefits to each staff room to help boost staff performance and morale, so more rooms enable you to vary these buffs.

Other Facilities

You’ll also need to add power generators and water purifiers to ensure the park is covered by both. Again these need to be placed away from guests. They have a large coverage radius but also a larger negative effect radius.

Use the target hotspot to see how much of your zoo is covered by facilities before you place them down. You also need to make sure they are accessible to mechanics.

Guest Facilities

The guest facilities are less numerous than the staff ones but are still important to maintain happiness. Here’s what you need to place when you begin.


An essential for every park. Try and ensure you spread these out as your park expands so all your guests will be comfortable and want to stay longer.

Food & Drink Vendors

Guests get hungry and thirsty so you need food and drink vendors to help with this. You can also make money from them, which you’ll desperately need. When you place the vendor it will come with a staff member but keep an eye on them as they aren’t automatically set to work in that specific shop. Hiring an extra vendor to cover breaks is recommended.

A later patch for the game also added vending machines. These make great alternatives when you are starting out as the maintenance cost is much lower than the cost of hiring a vendor. They are also much cheaper to purchase. Just make sure mechanics have them included in their work zones so they can be restocked and maintained.


You can also place an information point and ATM, which are helpful but not vital. However, ATMs will encourage visitors to spend more and information points are good revenue generators. An extra store that is merchandise based can also help bring in some extra cash.

Getting Animals

Once you have your buildings in place, you can begin to get some animals. In the third scenario attractiveness of animals seems important, but initially just getting some animals into your zoo is good enough.

The animals you can get will vary depending on the scenario, and will change over time. In a zoo where space is difficult to find, a few animals who can live together will help. It’s also a good idea to add some exhibit animals. These live in very small enclosures and often have a high appeal.

You can use the Zoopedia to see which animals will enjoy being in a mixed habitat; enabling you to build one big enclosure, rather than several small ones. It’s also a good idea to check the Zoopedia for information on the size of habitat each animal requires. Huge habitats are expensive to build so better left for later.

One of the best starting animals is the Red Panda. They have a high appeal, small size requirement, and breed relatively easily. While they love a good climbing frame you can use trees to meet their requirements if you don’t have any frame blueprints and struggle with building.

Creating A Good Environment

This isn’t a detailed building guide but we do have some tips to help you get started.

  • Cheaper fences will break quicker so can be a false economy, especially when certain animals break them faster. Anything dangerous or large is best contained within really good enclosure walls. Log fences are fine for small animals but concrete or brick is better for larger and stronger ones.
  • All fences can have windows added to them using the options. You can also add anti-climb barriers. This means that these requirements won’t prevent you from using the fences you prefer.
  • The easiest way to get an exhibit correct is to build a basic enclosure then put your animal inside. Once they are inside you can click them and the detailed boxes will show you the size, terrain, plant, and enrichment requirements as well as other things you may need to know, such as the amount of water required.
  • You can use the species, location, and biome filters to ensure you find the correct enrichment items and foliage.

Once the animal is happy don’t forget to add educational boards, speakers, and a donation box to the viewing area. Donations are a huge source of income so try to place them where crowds gather the most.

Staff And Work Zones

Once these basics are in place the main thing you need to do is ensure you have the right staff. Each exhibit requires a keeper, although they can manage more than one exhibit if they’re close together. You’ll also need janitors, at least one mechanic and vet and a vendor per store, minimum. Later on, an extra vendor and some security and education staff will enhance your zoo.

Staff will wander aimlessly between tasks unless told otherwise so use the work zone tool to make sure they are being efficient. Some wandering staff to fill in gaps is a good idea but if they all wander things will go wrong very quickly.

Use the colored key to make sure everything in your zoo is covered with a work zone. Here’s what needs to be assigned:

  • Zookeepers need access to a keeper hut and staff room as well as their assignment of exhibits and habitats.
  • Mechanics require a workshop as well as a staff room. You should also assign mechanics to every habitat to repair the walls and every building to inspect it. They will also maintain and fix power supplies, water pumps, and vending machines.
  • Vets should be assigned to a trade center, quarantine, and vet clinic as well as a staff room. They can also be assigned to exhibits to keep an eye on the animals and check for issues.
  • Janitors and Security Guards can be assigned specific tasks or just left to roam but assigning them different areas to patrol helps.
  • Educators need to be assigned to animal talks. Make sure you check the podiums and spread the talks out so they aren’t trying to do two tasks at once.

Moving Forward

Keep an eye on those alerts, fix any problems, and watch the guests (and hopefully money) roll in. Remember that if you expand too fast you’ll run out of money; so keep an eye on the goals, finances, and any time constraints for scenarios and challenges to keep things in balance.

If you want more help with your zoo planning make sure to check out our other Planet Zoo articles.

Next: Planet Zoo – A Complete Guide

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Helen began playing games at an early age with her first computer being a hand-me-down Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It didn’t put her off… She is all grown up now but is still a gamer at heart, especially when it comes to The Sims and other strategy and simulation games.

She juggles the daily demands of life with a family and somehow still finds the time to indulge her two passions in life, writing and gaming; sometimes both at the same time.

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