|Date opened||May 1973|
|Location||Asheville, North Carolina|
|Land area||42 acres (0.17 km2; 17 ha)|
|No. of species||100+|
|Memberships||Association of Zoos and Aquariums|
|Major exhibits||Otter Falls, Appalachian Station, Appalachian Predators and North Carolina Farm|
The Western North Carolina Nature Center is a 42-acre (17 ha) zoological park in Western North Carolina operated by the City of Asheville's Parks and Recreation department. Until 1973, it was known as the Asheville City Zoo and was then renamed the Children's Zoo and Nature Center. It received its current name in 1974 when formed as a non-profit charity to develop the zoo which ultimately opened in 1976. The Center has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1999 and its collection features animals native to the southern Appalachian Mountains. In 2013 the center welcomed over 107,000 guests with over 13,000 coming from school children on field trips to the facility.
In 2010, the Center completed an ambitious 2020 Vision master plan, and in 2013 opened the first phase of this plan with a red wolf exhibit and Arachnid Adventure playground. A new front entrance complex and Appalachian Journey exhibit are also being planned.
A development in 2018 is the prehistoric Appalachian area, featuring animals - or their closest living relatives - found in the region 15,000 years ago, such as red panda (not local, but related to Bristol's panda),tapir and rhinoceros.
"The central Asian range of the modern day red panda is almost identical climate-wise to the Southern Appalachians, so our pandas should feel very much at home in Asheville," said Chris Gentile, WNC Nature Center Director. "The fact that the fossilized remains of their ancestor the Bristol's Panda have been discovered in Eastern Tennessee indicates that these pandas were once prevalent in our area."