The San Diego Zoo is a zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, housing over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. Its parent organization, San Diego Zoo Global, is one of the largest zoological membership associations in the world, with more than 250,000 member households and 130,000 child memberships, representing more than a half million people. The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats. It is one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the giant panda. In 2013, the zoo added a new Koalafornia Adventure exhibit, providing an updated Australian animal experience. 2017 will see the opening of Africa Rocks.
It is privately moderated by the nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego on 100 acres (40 ha) of Balboa Park leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and a member of the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). San Diego Zoo Global also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.
The San Diego Zoo grew out of exotic animal exhibitions abandoned after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth founded the Zoological Society of San Diego, meeting October 2, 1916, which initially followed precedents set by the New York Zoological Society at the Bronx Zoo. He served as president of the society until 1941. A permanent tract of land in Balboa Park was set aside in August 1921; on the advice of the city attorney, it was agreed that the city would own all the animals and the zoo would manage them. The zoo began to move in the following year. In addition to the animals from the Exposition, the zoo acquired a menagerie from the defunct Wonderland Amusement Park. Ellen Browning Scripps financed a fence around the zoo so that it could begin charging an entrance fee to offset costs. The publication ZooNooz commenced in early 1925.
Animal collector Frank Buck went to work as director of the San Diego Zoo on June 13, 1923, signed to a three-year contract by Wegeforth. William T. Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo, had recommended Buck for the job, but Buck quickly clashed with the strong-willed Wegeforth and left the zoo after three months to return to animal collecting.
After several other equally short-lived zoo directors, Wegeforth appointed the zoo's bookkeeper, Belle Benchley, to the position of executive secretary, in effect zoo director; she was given the actual title of zoo director a few years later. She served as zoo director from 1925 until 1953. For most of that time she was the only female zoo director in the world. She was succeeded as director by Dr. Charles Schroeder.
The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer in building "cageless" exhibits. Wegeforth was determined to create moated exhibits from the start, and the first lion area at the San Diego Zoo without enclosing wires opened in 1922.
Until the 1960s, admission for children under 16 was free regardless of whether they were accompanied by a paying adult.
The zoo's Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) was founded in 1975 at the urging of Kurt Benirschke, who became its first director. CRES was renamed the division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species in 2005 to better reflect its mission. In 2009 CRES was significantly expanded to become the Institute for Conservation Research.
The world's only albino koala in a zoological facility was born September 1, 1997, at the San Diego Zoo and was named Onya-Birri, which means "ghost boy" in an Australian Aboriginal language. The San Diego Zoo has the largest number of koalas outside of Australia.
In 2014, a colony of African penguins arrived for the first time in the zoo since 1979. They will be moved into Africa Rocks when it opens sometime in 2017.
In 2016, Baba, the last pangolin on display in North America, died at the zoo.
The San Diego Zoo has had a number of notable escapees through the years, the most noteworthy of them is Ken Allen, a Bornean orangutan who came to be known as "the hairy Houdini," for his many escapes.
In early 2015, two Wolf guenons monkeyed around outside of their Ituri Forest enclosure. One of the monkeys neared a fence line off of Route 163, but was brought back to safety without injury.
In 2014, a koala named Mundu escaped to a neighboring tree just outside its Koalafornia Australia Outback enclosure. Zookeepers lured him down the tree once the park closed that day.
In March 2013, the zoo, which was hosting a private party at the time, had to initiate a lockdown when two striped hyenas somehow got past their barriers, before they were "darted with a sedative and taken to the veterinary care clinic."
The zoo offers a guided tour bus that traverses 75% of the park. There is an overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, providing an aerial view of the zoo. The Skyfari was built in 1969 by the Von Roll tramway company of Bern, Switzerland. The San Diego Zoo Skyfari is a Von Roll type 101.
Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. The same exhibit features many different animals that can be found side-by-side in the wild, along with native plant life. Exhibits range from an African rain forest (featuring gorillas) to the Arctic taiga and tundra in the summertime (featuring polar bears). Some of the largest free-flight aviaries in existence are here. Many exhibits are "natural" with invisible wires and darkened blinds (to view birds), and pools and open-air moats (for large mammals).
The San Diego Zoo also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which displays animals in a more expansive setting than at the zoo. Animals are regularly exchanged between the two locations, as well as between San Diego Zoo and other zoos around the world, usually in accordance with Species Survival Plan recommendations.
The temperate, sunny maritime climate is well suited to many plants and animals. Besides an extensive collection of birds, reptiles, and mammals, it also maintains its grounds as an arboretum, with a rare plant collection. The botanical collection includes more than 700,000 exotic plants. As part of its gardening effort, it raises some rare animal foods. For example, the zoo raises 40 varieties of bamboo for the pandas on long-term loan from China, and it maintains 18 varieties of eucalyptus trees to feed its koalas.
Keepers and most other employees at the San Diego Zoo are members of Teamsters Union Local 481.
Monkey Trails showcases monkeys and other animals from the rainforests of Asia and Africa. Opened in 2005, it replaced an older exhibit known as the Monkey Yard. Monkey Trails is home primarily to monkeys such as guenons, mangabey[disambiguation needed]s, and mandrills, but it also showcases many other species of animals, such as yellow-backed duikers. Pygmy hippos, slender-snouted crocodiles, and many species of turtles and fish can be seen in a series of water/land exhibits all with underwater viewing areas. In smaller exhibits are many reptiles and amphibians such as pancake tortoises, and many species of arthropods such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Monkey Trails utilizes a new method of displaying arboreal animals—by climbing up an elevated walkway throughout the exhibit. Some of the horticultural highlights in Monkey Trails include a ficus tree, cycads, and a bog garden.
As of July 2011, the San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos in the U.S. which have giant pandas on display, and is the most successful in terms of panda reproduction. The first two giant panda cubs in U.S. history to have been born in the U.S. and survive into adulthood, Hua Mei (female, born to Bai Yun and Shi Shi) and Mei Sheng (male, born to Bai Yun and Gao Gao), were born at the San Diego Zoo, in 1999 and 2003, respectively. Since then, four more giant panda cubs, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen (both females), Yun Zi (male), Xiao Liwu (male), have been born to the resident giant panda parents Bai Yun and Gao Gao. All these American-born cubs except Xiao Liwu have been sent back to China to participate in the breeding program there. These giant pandas are viewable from a web based exhibit called the San Diego Zoo panda cam. A sixth cub, Xiao Liwu (meaning "little gift"), was born on July 29, 2012 and was first let outside for visitors to see on January 9, 2013. In addition to being able to view this rare animal species, the nearby Giant Panda Discovery Center has interactive exhibits that let the visitor experience first hand what the animals smell and sound like. Since the opening of Panda Trek there are now Sichuan takins, a red panda, Mangshan pitvipers, and an exhibit comparing several types of bamboo. The exhibit is currently under renovations, and the pandas have been moved into Sun Bear Forest.
Polar bear Plunge, which opened in 1996 and was renovated in March 2010, houses over 30 species representing the Arctic. The main animals in the area are the three polar bears, named Kalluk, Chinook, and Tatqiq. More animals that make their home in Polar Bear Plunge which are reindeer or caribou, raccoons, and Arctic foxes. An underwater viewing area is available to observe the polar bears swimming in their 130,000-US-gallon (490,000 l) pool. Farther down the path lies the arctic aviary, home to the diving ducks including buffleheads, harlequin ducks, the smews, and long-tailed ducks. The aviary houses more than 25 species of duck. Some of the horticultural highlights include giant redwood trees, many different pine trees, and manzanita.
Based upon the real Ituri Forest in Africa, this exhibit opened in 1999 and houses different animal species from the rainforests of central Africa. The exhibit begins with a forested exhibit for okapi then winds past a recreation of two leaf-covered Mbuti huts with signage about the people's customs and traditions. Next, the path leads to the hippopotamus exhibit, which also houses tilapia and has an underwater viewing area. After the hippos, the path passes through a bunch of bamboo before reaching a clearing where aviaries have housed great blue turaco, emerald starlings, tambourine doves, and Congo peafowl. A thatched-roof gift shop and a food stand are located in a plaza near by. Immediately to the right is the African forest buffalo exhibit, which also houses De Brazza's monkey, Allen's swamp monkey, Schmidt's spot-nosed guenon, and spotted-necked otters. The plaza leads to a bridge flanked by the buffalo exhibit on one side and an exhibit that only the small monkeys and otters can access on the other. Across the bridge is a creek where the otters can swim, with viewing both above and below the water's surface. Afterwards, the path joins the rest of the zoo.
This exhibit opened on May 23, 2009, on the site of the former Hoof and Horn Mesa area. The main feature of the exhibit is the 2.5-acre (10,000 m2) elephant habitat — more than three times the size of the zoo's former elephant exhibit, in what used to be Elephant Mesa (now the heavily panned "Urban Jungle" exhibit area). The herd includes six females (Tembo, Mila, Devi, Sumithi, Mary and Shaba) and formerly one male (Ranchipur), who died in 2016, and consists of a blended herd of three African and three Asian elephants. Elephant Odyssey also features a glimpse of the past with the Fossil Portal and life-size statues of ancient creatures of Southern California next to the exhibits of their modern-day counterparts. The ancient life represented include the Columbian mammoth, the saber-tooth cat, the American lion, the Daggett's eagle, and the Jefferson's ground sloth. Elephant Odyssey's other animal exhibits include African lions, jaguars, Baird's tapirs, guanacos, capybaras, Kirk's dik-diks, secretary birds, dung beetles, water beetles, desert tarantulas, toads, newts, turtles, frogs, dromedary camels, pronghorns, Przewalski's wild horses, burros, llamas, rattlesnakes, and the California condor.
The beginning of Elephant Odyssey is the Fossil Portal, an artificial tar pit that periodically drains to reveal man-made Pleistocene-era bones. The path turns a corner and opens up at the Mammoth Passage Plaza, with exhibits for jaguars and African lions to the left, an exhibit that has housed two-toed sloths to the right, and the tip of the elephant exhibit, with a large wading pool, straight ahead. The path continues to the left along the pool, passing by the jaguar exhibit on the left. The northern end of the elephant pool drains into the Mixed Species Exhibit, which houses tapirs, capybaras, and guanacos. The path meets up with the elephant exhibit again before it reaches the Elephant Care Center, where visitors can watch keepers care for the animals. Next is an exhibit for secretary birds with grasses, a tree and a statue of the extinct Daggett's eagle nearby. Afterwards, the path goes down a crevasse with a wall embedded with vivaria for dung beetles and diving beetles, among other aquatic insects. The path tunnels below the elephant exhibit to reach the other side, where it continues between the elephant exhibit and a creek for native reptiles and amphibians. Just past the source of the stream is a restaurant and gift shop, and after that is a couple of exhibits for pronghorns, horses, and camels. Next the path splits between a playground, a rattlesnake terrarium, and a California condor aviary with artificial rock spires and a stream. The paths then reunite and join the rest of the zoo.
Simulating the rainforests of central Africa and opened in 1991, Gorilla Tropics has an 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) enclosure for the eponymous species. The exhibit has waterfalls, a meadow, and tropical plants such as allspice, coral trees, and African tulip trees, as well as several species of bamboo. Guests can view the seven western gorillas from a viewing window, across a waterfall, and across a creek.
This exhibit opened in 2003, as a major renovation of the former "Whittier Southeast Asian Exhibits", which had opened in 1982. It houses four Sumatran orangutans with one Bornean orangutan and siamangs in an 8,400-square-foot (780 m2) exhibit, which is flanked by a 110-foot (34 m) glass viewing window. The exhibit provides sway poles and artificial trees for the primates to swing on and a fake termite mound for them to fish condiments out of. The viewing area is designed to resemble the mulch-lined exhibit side of the viewing window by having rubber mulch and miniature sway poles for kids. Some plant species in the exhibit are toog trees, carrotwood trees, and markhamia trees.
The zoo has bred and maintained bonobos (pygmy chimps) since 1960; San Diego has currently 13 bonobos.
This $3.5 million exhibit opened in 1989 and exhibits Bornean sun bears and silvery lutung monkeys. One end of the 1.5-acre (0.61 ha) complex houses lion-tailed macaques in a grassy exhibit with a stream and climbing ropes. The oblong sun bear exhibit straddles the path along the rest of the complex, and a couple of small aviaries house fifteen species of birds, including fairy bluebird and fruit doves. A large glass-covered exhibit with artificial vines is designed for crested gibbons.
Tiger River, located in a sloping canyon, opened in 1988 and houses Malayan tigers. From the top of the canyon, the path first goes through a pavilion with underwater viewing of crocodilians and other aquatic reptiles. It proceeds to another pavilion, this time flanked by the Marsh Aviary, with white-collared kingfishers and storks, and a fishing cat exhibit. Farther down the canyon are a Malayan tapir exhibit and the 1⁄4-acre (0.10 ha) tiger habitat, which has a hillside stream, waterfall, and glass viewing window.
A new Australian Outback area, nicknamed "Koalafornia", opened in May 2013. It has twice as much exhibit space for koalas, including more outdoor enclosures based on a realization that koalas need sun exposure for their health. The new area includes other Australian marsupials such as wombats and wallabies and Australian birds such as kookaburras. Since October 2013 the exhibit also houses Tasmanian devils, the first American zoo to do so; the animals are now kept in half a dozen zoos in the Americas as part of the Australian government's Save the Tasmanian Devil Program.
Two 14-week-old clouded leopard brothers arrived at the zoo in December 2012.
The zoo finished building a new cougar exhibit in 2014.
A new exhibit called Africa Rocks is scheduled to open in 2017 after $10 million was donated to the zoo by 3800 donors. The current exhibit known as Cat Canyon will have 1930s era cages and grottoes replaced with new exhibits. Africa Rocks will feature new exhibits that will create a new African experience that includes Rady Falls and a Madagascar habitat. The 65-foot-tall Rady Falls will be the largest man-made waterfall in San Diego. The Madagascar habitat will showcase at most seven species of lemurs, including the endangered red-ruffed lemur. Africa Rocks will have a diversity of habitats and dozens of species. It will highlight some of the zoo’s most popular animals, such as leopards, zebras, hyraxes and African penguins, as well as those not seen at the zoo in more than 35 years, like hamadryas baboons.
The zoo is active in conservation and species-preservation efforts. Its Institute for Conservation Research (formerly the Center for the Reproduction for Endangered Species) raises California condors, giant pandas, tigers, African black rhinos, and a 145 other endangered species. As a result, they reintroduced more than 30 endangered species back into the wild, and has conserved habitat at 50 field sites. They also have over 200 conservation scientists working in 35 countries around the world. It employs numerous professional geneticists, cytologists, and veterinarians and maintains a cryopreservation facility for rare sperm and eggs called the frozen zoo.
The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is the largest zoo-based multidisciplinary research effort in the world. Based at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Conservation Research adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, more than 200 dedicated scientists carry out research vital to the conservation of animals, plants, and habitats, locally and internationally.
Zoo Corps is a volunteer program at the San Diego Zoo that enlists high school students to teach guests at the zoo about the animals they are seeing and their place in the ecosystem. It enrolls students between 13 and 17 years of age. The goals are to promote public education about animals and conservation, and to help the students develop their ability to speak in public. The program runs year round in two sessions, one from May through November and one from January through May. Members of the Zoo Corps are expected to volunteer at least once a month.
The program utilizes a series of "Kits", which are set on tables throughout the zoo. The kits contain objects that can be used to explain why an animal is endangered or to shed light on the animal's lifestyle.Some of the kits are: Conservation Kit, Endangered Species Kit, Behavioral Enrichment Kit, and Animal Diet Kit.
Local architect Louis John Gill designed the original buildings, cages and animal grottos and later in 1926, the Spanish Revival-style research hospital, for which Gill received an Honor Award from the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Gill also designed a bird cage at the zoo in 1937, then the largest bird cage in the world.
The San Diego Zoo has received numerous awards for its exhibits, programs, and reproduction and conservation efforts. This list includes only awards given to the Zoo specifically, not to its parent organization; for those, see San Diego Zoo Global#Awards.
|1958||San Diego Zoo Convention & Tourist Bureau||first tourism award|
|1961||American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (AAZPA)||Edward H. Bean Award||For reproduction of koalas (first koala birth in Western Hemisphere)|
|1963||AAZPA||Edward H. Bean Award||For Galápagos tortoise hatching|
|For Gila monster hatching (first Gila monster conceived and hatched in captivity)|
|1964||AAZPA||Edward H. Bean Award||For hatching and rearing of rhinoceros iguana|
|1966||AAZPA||Edward H. Bean Award for Most Notable Animal Births in an American Zoo||For reproduction of proboscis monkey (first birth outside of Borneo)|
|For reproduction of thick-billed parrot (first hatching recorded in captivity)|
|For reproduction of African softshell turtle (first hatching recorded in captivity)|
|1974||AAZPA||Edward H. Bean Award||For birth of ruffed lemur|
|1987||AAZPA||Exhibit Award||For East African Rock Kopje|
|1988||AAZPA||Education Award||For East African Rock Kopje Interpretive Program|
|1989||AAZPA||Exhibit Award||For Tiger River|
|Edward H. Bean Award||For California condor breeding (shared with San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park and Los Angeles Zoo)|
|1991||AAZPA||Edward H. Bean Award||For François' langur propagation program|
|Significant Achievement Award||For long-term propagation of Fijian iguanas|
|1992||AAZPA||Significant Achievement in Exhibits||For Gorilla Tropics|
|1995||Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)||Significant Achievement Award||For Andean condor reintroduction program|
|1996||AZA||Significant Achievement in Exhibis||For Hippo Beach|
|2000||AZA||Top Honors in International Conservation||For Jamaican Iguana Conservation & Recovery Program (shared with Fort Worth Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, Audubon Nature Institute, Sedgwick County Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, Toledo Zoo, Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, Gladys Porter Zoo, and Milwaukee County Zoo)|
|Conservation Endowment Fund Award||For restoration of two critically endangered West Indian rock iguana species through headstarting and release (shared with Fort Worth Zoo)|
|2002||AZA||Edward H. Bean Award||For Sumatran rhinoceros breeding program (shared with Los Angeles Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden)|
|2007||Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG)||Plume Award for Noteworthy Achievement in Avian Husbandry||For the Light-footed Clapper Rail coalition (shared with Chula Vista Nature Center, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service Reserve)|
|2010||AZA||Significant Achievement in Exhibits||For Elephant Odyssey|
|Top Honors for Excellence in Marketing|
|2014||AZA||Top Honors in International Conservation||For Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program in Papua New Guinea (shared with Woodland Park Zoo, Brevard Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Gladys Porter Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens, Minnesota Zoological Garden, Oregon Zoo, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and Zoo New England)|
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