Faecal prevalence of gastrointestinal bacterial pathogens, including Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, as well as Arcobacter, were examined in 317 faecal specimens from 44 animal species in Belfast Zoological Gardens, during July-September 2006. Thermophilic campylobacters including Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli and Campylobacter lari, were the most frequently isolated pathogens, where members of this genus were isolated from 11 animal species (11 of 44; 25%). Yersinia spp. were isolated from seven animal species (seven of 44; 15.9%) and included, Yersinia enterocolitica (five of seven isolates; 71.4%) and one isolate each of Yersinia frederiksenii and Yersinia kristensenii. Only one isolate of Salmonella was obtained throughout the entire study, which was an isolate of Salmonella dublin (O 1,9,12: H g, p), originating from tiger faeces after enrichment. None of the animal species found in public contact areas of the zoo were positive for any gastrointestinal bacterial pathogens. Also, water from the lake in the centre of the grounds, was examined for the same bacterial pathogens and was found to contain C. jejuni. This study is the first report on the isolation of a number of important bacterial pathogens from a variety of novel host species, C. jejuni from the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), C. lari from a maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), Y. kristensenii from a vicugna (Vicugna vicugna) and Y. enterocolitica from a maned wolf and red panda (Ailurus fulgens). In conclusion, this study demonstrated that the faeces of animals in public contact areas of the zoo were not positive for the bacterial gastrointestinal pathogens examined. This is reassuring for the public health of visitors, particularly children, who enjoy this educational and recreational resource. (C) 2008 The Authors Journal compilation (C) 2008 Blackwell Verlag.