“San Diego Zoo Global is committed to saving species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature.” ~ San Diego Zoo Global’s mission statement
Welcome to the first of many pieces about the World famous San Diego Zoo and my visit to the park. I was very much blown away by its sheer size at 100 acres (40 hectares) and the vast diversity of species; over 3700 rare and endangered animals that represent over 650 species and subspecies. Found in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park, the zoo is also a prominent botanical garden with over 700,000 exotic plants. The San Diego Zoo also raises 40 varieties of bamboo for its pandas and maintains 18 varieties of eucalyptus trees for its koalas. Not only does the zoo provide food for its animals but it also grows ficus which is sent to the Cincinnati Zoo for their Sumatran rhino.
At almost 100 years old, the San Diego Zoo was founded on October 2, 1916 by Harry M. Wegeforth M.D. who became the president of the Zoological Society of San Diego, and was a pioneer in the United States in building ‘cageless’ exhibits, in Carl Hegenbeck fashion. Wegeforth was determined to create natural exhibits from the start that were separated by moats to appear borderless. In 1922 the first lion exhibit at the zoo opened with no cages, no bars and no enclosed wires.
With the vast expanse the San Diego Zoo covers (note – I spent 8 hours there) it also boasts a variety of ways to get around. A great way to start your day at the zoo and become familiar with it is to take a ride on their guided tour bus. This double-decker bus covers around 75% of the zoo grounds, takes about 35 minutes and is narrated, giving you interesting insiders information on the zoo and its animals.
(**Note: A little insider tip – it’s best to sit on the bottom right of the bus to see the most animals)
The zoo also offers a hop-on-hop-off bus, the Kangaroo Express, that has five stops throughout the zoo. The last form of getting around the zoo, and possibly the most thrilling, it the Skyfari. Built back in 1969, the Skyfari is an overhead gondola lift that takes you from the front of the zoo, up an over to the other side and offers fantastic views of the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park.
Beyond the zoo there is a plethora of conservation work being done. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is the largest zoo-based multidisciplinary research effort in the world. Their Institute for Conservation Research establishes problems faced and works towards saving species, restoring habitats and education. Many species bred hereare released into their native habitats, with success stories for the iconic California condor, rare Hawaiian birds and Caribbean iguanas.
A visit to San Diego is not complete unless you’ve set aside a day to explore the San Diego Zoo, meet its amazing animals and take away even a fraction of the vast knowledge there is to learn there.
Have you visited the San Diego Zoo? What did you learn?