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It is the place that families visit for a magical day out and to get up close to dangerous wild animals in a supposedly safe environment.
But sometimes zoo visitors can get a little too close to the animals.
The sounds of pure excitement in the air can change to piercing screams as rare events take a terrifying and tragic turn for the worse.
And it is not always the zoo visitors who have been targeted as animals have lashed out at their keepers as well.
On Sunday a “show off” put his hand into a big cat enclosure to stroke and tease a growling lion – but quickly regretted his decision when the beast chomped down on a finger and ripped it off.
In a video posted to Twitter, an attendant at Jamaica Zoo can be seen sticking his finger into the chain-linked cage in front of around 15 visitors.
He ignores the lion’s snarls and even claps at the dangerous animal before screaming expletives after it grips his finger.
The horrified crowd watch on as the zookeeper desperately tries to pull his finger out from the lion’s jaw before it’s fully severed off and he falls backwards.
Despite the attack, the attendant reportedly got up and walked over to a vehicle before driving off.
This shocking incident is one of many attacks captured on shocking video footage or chilling pictures.
Here, we've rounded up some of the world's most chilling zoo attacks.
Woman mauled to death by tiger
Back in July 2016 a woman was viciously mauled by a tiger while driving through the enclosure at a Beijing zoo.
The woman, named as Ms Zhao, got out of her car at Badaling Wildlife World when a Siberian tiger pounced on her and pulled her into the bushes.
Her mother was mauled to death by a second tiger as she tried to save her.
Ms Zhao was reportedly left disabled from the horrifying incident.
Whale instructor attacked during Sea World performance
Whale instructor Dawn Brancheau was dragged underwater and thrashed around during a performance at SeaWorld in Orlando as horrified onlookers watched on.
The 40-year-old was grabbed by her long ponytail by killer whale Tilikum before he swung her in his mouth during the incident in February 2010.
Staff desperately tried to tame the orca as guests were ushered out, but Dawn had tragically died by the time her body was retrieved.
An autopsy revealed she died of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso, with part of her scalp "forcibly torn from the head".
Woman killed by tiger at safari park
Catalina Torres Ibarra was tragically killed by a tiger in the big cat enclosure at a safari park in Chile after allegedly being sent into clean.
The 21-year-old was mauled to death by the tiger and reportedly had not been warned the cage door was open.
She was allegedly told to perform cleaning duties before the fatal attack in Rancagua in August last year where she suffered horror neck wounds and died "on the spot".
Gorilla drags three-year-old boy who climbed into his enclosure
Harambe the gorilla became a global sensation after he was shot dead by a zookeeper at Cincinnati Zoo in 2016.
The 17-year-old gorilla grabbed and dragged a three-year-old boy who had climbed into his enclosure.
A zookeeper then shot Harambe – with the whole incident caught on camera.
It sparked debate across the world whether it was the correct decision to shoot Harambe.
The 10-minute ordeal saw the gorilla drag the tot through water as well as propping him up and pushing him over.
The boy was hospitalised for a short period of time but escaped from the incident relatively unscathed.
Woman mauled by polar bear
A visitor at Berlin Zoo was horrifically mauled by a polar bear after she leapt into the enclosure during feeding time in 2009.
The 32-year-old was savaged by the beast, who – despite the efforts of six zookeepers trying to distract the bear – bit her arms and legs repeatedly.
Eventually, staff managed to haul the bear away and drag her to safety.
She was taken to hospital and needed surgery on her wounds.
Disturbing images from the incident show the woman screaming out in pain as the bear locked its jaws onto her.
Man escapes death after jumping into bear enclosure
A man narrowly escaped death after almost being ripped apart when he jumped into a bear enclosure.
The shocking incident unfolded when he visited the Berne Bear Park in Switzerland in 2009.
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The man had perched on a 20ft wall above four-year-old bear, Finn, before plunging into the enclosure.
The bear quickly grabbed hold of the man, dragging him like a rag doll before sinking his razor-sharp teeth into him
Police had been called and fired a bullet at the bear's chest.
The man was quickly stretchered out of the enclosure and treated in hospital for severe head and leg injuries.
Zookeeper mauled by tiger
A zookeeper was badly mauled by a Siberian tiger in front of shocked visitors at a zoo in Russia back in 2017.
The big cat pounced on the woman as she brought food to the animal – but she was miraculously saved by onlookers who shouted and threw things at the beast.
Men even lifted a table and chairs from a nearby cafe, hurling them over the fence to distract the 15-year-old male called Taifun, or Typhoon.
Dramatic pictures captured the woman on her back on the ground with the tiger on top of her, toying with her.
The woman can be seen screaming in terror as the animal – which had never attacked a keeper before – swipes at her with its paws.
But quick-thinking bystanders distracted the beast allowing her to get up and run to safety before being rushed to hospital.
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