Visitors have various motives for visiting a zoo. Information on these motives can be applied by zoo management to make informed decisions when developing a marketing strategy to ensure the success and future relevance of the zoo. This study has aimed to determine whether visitors are motivated to visit the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa for recreational or educational purposes, and whether their motives are geared towards their own benefit (intrinsic motives) or to the benefit of others (altruistic motives). The research was conducted by means of a quantitative survey. The results indicate that the respondents view recreational motives as more important than educational motives. In addition, more people visit the zoo to promote the welfare of others (altruistic orientation) than to have a self-directed zoo experience (intrinsic orientation). The findings suggest that the management of the zoological parks should ensure that the parks offer activities and experiences of recreational value for visitors. These activities should be communicated to the relevant target markets, in order to attract them to the zoo, which could contribute to the long-term survival and success of the zoo.