Located in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, the San Diego Zoo housing over 3,700 animals and more than 650 species and subspecies was founded under the world’s largest zoological membership organization, San Diego Global consisting more than 380,000 memberships and representing more than 500,000 million people.
Recognized as one of the few zoos worldwide to house the giant panda native to south central China, the San Diego Zoo was one of the first zoos to introduce the idea of open-air “cage-less” exhibits to recreate a natural habitat for animals.
Situated on over 40 ha of parkland leased from the City of San Diego, the San Diego Zoo is operated by a non-profit organization known as the Zoological Society of San Diego which was founded in 1916 under the leadership of the San Diego physician Harry Milton Wegeforth. Although the Society which is also known for operating the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is charged with the management of the San Diego Zoo; ownership of the animals, equipment and other property remains with the City of San Diego.
Facts About the San Diego Zoo
- The idea behind the San Diego Zoo grew out of the exotic animal exhibitions following the Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park, San Diego, California between 1915 to 1917 in celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal.
- The first cage-less exhibit opened at the San Diego Zoo was a the moated lion exhibit in 1922.
- The San Diego Zoo in 1999 opened an African rainforest area; the Ituri Forest which consisted of its first multi-species exhibit which included a Hippo Beach exhibit which had previously been opened in 1995.
- Before the 1960s children under the age of 16 were allowed free admission to the zoo whether they were accompanied by an adult or not.
- In 1975 the zoo under the advice of its first director Kurt Benirsdhke founded its Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species. In an effort to best reflect its mission status the Center was renamed the division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species in 2005. To date the organization has been responsible for the numerous successes including the development of a sustainable population of California condors, the creation of several techniques to encourage breeding habits among cheetahs and its continuing work to improve the survival of the giant pandas.
- In the summer of 1985 it was reported that an orangutan named Ken Allen escaped from what was described as an escape-proof orangutan exhibit.
- On September 1, 1997 the San Diego Zoos zoological facility witnessed the birth of the world’s first and only albino koala named Onya-Birri. Today the zoo houses the largest number of kolas outside of Australia.
- The San Diego Zoo features a guided tour bus which journeys more than 75% of the park and offers an overhead gondola lift known as the Skyfari built in 1969 which provides visitors with an aerial view of the zoo.
- The San Diego Zoo exhibits are generally designed according to the animals specific habitat. Animals which are known to naturally live side-by-side in the wild can often be found in the same exhibit along with species of indigenous plant life. The San Diego Zoo exhibits range from the African rainforest exhibit to the polar bear exhibit of the Arctic taiga and tundra regions.
- Many of the largest free-flight aviaries today can be found here at the San Diego Zoo and include the Owens Aviary which contains more than 200 tropical birds of more than 45 species and the Scripps Aviary which is home to many colorful birds such as the amethyst starling and the sociable weaver.
The San Diego Zoo Webcam Exhibits
The San Diego Outback Exhibit
Fondly nicknamed the “Koalafornia” the San Diego Australian Outback exhibit was opened in May 2013. Today the exhibit is twice as large featuring more enclosures on the recognition that kolas need a vast amount of exposure to the sun to remain healthy. The new area includes a variety of other marsupials such as wallabies, wombats and several birds such as the terrestrial tree kingfishers Kookaburras native to Australia and New Guinea.
The San Diego Zoo and the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque are the only two zoos in the Americas known for housing Tasmanian devils.
View San Diego Outback Exhibit Koala Cam.
The San Diego Polar Bear Plunge Exhibit
In 1996 the San Diego Zoo opened its Polar Bear Plunge. In 2010 the exhibit was redeveloped to house more than 30 species native to the Arctic region. Some of the main animals found within the exhibit include three polar bears, named Chinook, Kalluk and Tatqiq. Other animals which can also be seen at the exhibit are Arctic foxes, the South American manned wolves, mountain lions, and reindeer. The exhibit additionally features an underwater viewing area where visitors can view the polar bears swimming in a 130,000 gallon pool.
View San Diego Zoo Polar Bear Plunge Webcam.
The San Diego Zoo Elephant Odyssey
Opening on the site of the former Hoof and Horn Mesa area the San Diego Zoo in 2009 opened its Elephant Odyssey exhibit. In what was once referred to as the Elephant Mesa now the Urban Jungle, the exhibit which is more than three times the size of the previous exhibit features a herd consisting of one male and six female elephants in addition to a Fossil Portal where visitors can view life-size figures of prehistoric animals side-by-side their modern day peers.
View San Diego Zoo Elephant Cam Live Streaming Video.
The San Diego Zoo Monkey Trails and Forest Tales
The San Diego Zoo Monkey Trails and Forest Tales features monkeys and other animals native to the African and Asian rainforests. The exhibit which opened in 2005 was created as a replacement for the former Monkey Yard exhibit. The Monkey Trails and Forest Tales exhibit featuring several species of monkeys such as the mangabey, guenons and mandrills, is also home to a variety of other animals including slender-snouted crocodiles, yellow-backed duikers, and several species of fish and turtles which can be seen by way of a number of land and underwater exhibits.
View San Diego Zoo Ape Cam.
The San Diego Panda Trek
Since July 2011 the San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos within the United States to have giant panda exhibits and the most successful in terms of its conservation efforts to ensure reproduction of the species. Notably the first two giant panda cuba to have been born in the United States and survived into adult hood were born at the San Diego Zoo. Today the zoo features a web based exhibit where online viewers can watch this rare animal species.
View San Diego Zoo Panda Cam.
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