Bahawalpur zoo was set up in 1942 by the former Aamir of Bahawalpur, Sir Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi. It was then named "Sher Bagh" (meaning "lion garden"). In 1955, the administrator of the zoo Dr.Ghulam haider sumro was transferred to the Department of Agriculture. From 1977 to 1982, the zoo remained under the control of the Department of the Live Stock Punjab. The Bahawalpur Zoo is the fourth biggest zoo in Pakistan, after Lahore Zoo, Karachi Zoo and Islamabad Zoo.
The exhibits are a mix between old style cages and newer moated enclosures. One older exhibit houses a pair of domestic cats, jackals, and an Indian civet cat. Crocodiles are kept in a large outdoor enclosure. lions, tigers, and hyenas are housed in more modern moated enclosures. A large pond in the zoo is home to pelicans, cranes, and geese. Several peafowl are also on exhibit. Blackbuck, hog deer, nilgai, European red deer, chinkara, and European mouflon are all housed in large paddocks.
The zoo also includes a museum with stuffed animals, including what is claimed to be the last lion shot in the Punjab.
The zoo has received criticism various times for its neglect of animals often resulting in poor living conditions.