Emmen Zoo - originally known as Northern Zoo - has, over the years, become one of the main attractions in this part of the Netherlands. Its specialty is showing cattle on relatively large areas.
The Zoo opened on Ascension Day 1935, as the initiative of William SJ Oosting. It welcomed many visitors in a short time, and soon had sufficient funds to buy more land. During World War II, there were very few visitors, and it was difficult even to feed the animals. From early 1943, the zoo became a hiding place for people who had to hide from the Nazis. During the day, these people worked as if they were employees. There was a raid in March 1945, but they could all hide in time.
After the war the number of visitors rose sharply again. The zoo was the major tourist attraction in the northern Netherlands. However, in later years, other attractions developed in the area, causing a decline in visitor figures, and the zoo lacked the financial resources to develop new activities. Oosting became so disillusioned that he wanted to sell the park. In 1970, half of the park was taken over by the municipality of Emmen, the other half remaining in the ownership of the Oosting family. Oosting's eldest daughter, Aleid Rensen-Oosting, and her husband Jaap Rensen took over the management. They focused heavily on education, and created a new layout, grouping animals by their geographical origin. In 1995 the redevelopment was finally complete.
In 1995, management passed to a new Director, Hein Hiddingh. His challenge was to find expansion opportunities for the zoo. There was no adjacent land available, but just outside the city center was a large area available, called the Noordbargeres. In 2007, it was announced that the zoo will eventually move entirely from the city center. The name of the park was changed in 2004 in Emmen Zoo. The zoo, completed in 1995, is classified by continents so that in each part of the park one finds animals from the same continent in one place.