Edit ModuleShow Tags

Inside the Icon: San Diego Zoo

Lions, tigers, and bears, plus pandas, flamingos, and more—oh, my! This year, the world-renowned institution celebrates its centennial.


Published:

San Diego Zoo | Photo by Corbis Super RF/Alamy

Visit the Icon 

2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park

A Roaring Start

In September 1916, local physician Dr. Harry Wegeforth drove past Balboa Park with his brother when he heard the roar of a lion, one of the animals left in small cages and entrusted to the city from the 1915–1916 Panama-California Exposition. He said to his brother: “Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo? I think I’ll start one.” The next month, the Wegeforth brothers and three local colleagues formed the Zoological Society of San Diego, which began caring for animals left behind from the Exposition.

 

Land Of Opportunity

In 1921, the Board of Park Commissioners for the City of San Diego granted the land in Balboa Park for the zoo. That same year, Ellen Browning Scripps donated $9,000 for a fence to mark the zoo’s boundaries, making it possible to charge 10 cents admission when it was completed in January 1923.

 

Buckle Up

One of the zoo’s first animals was a one-year-old brown bear, who had been living as a mascot aboard a Navy ship. Given her increasing size and strength, the sailors decided to donate her to the then-new zoo. Without a truck to transport animals, the acting director sat the cub in the front seat of his roadster.

 

By The Numbers

The 100-acre zoo cares for more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals, representing 660 species and subspecies. To date, the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy has successfully reproduced more than 165 endangered species and reintroduced more than 40 species.

 

A Genetic Ark

Since 1972, researchers have been forming a genetic library known as the Frozen Zoo, a branch of the San Diego Global Wildlife Conservancy. The collection includes cell cultures from more than 9,000 individuals across 1,000 species. The scientists focus on stem cell conservation, genome research, and more.

 

In The Spotlight

Episodes of Perry Mason, Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, and even Keeping Up with the Kardashians have filmed at the zoo, while some of its animals have appeared as extras in films, including camels in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur.

 

Coming Attractions

The zoo’s most ambitious project to date, Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks, which will transform a canyon into replicated African habitats, is set to debut next year. Incoming new animal exhibits will include baboons, lemurs, ibex antelope, and a colony of African penguins.

 

Party Animal

Wish the zoo a happy 100th with other animal lovers May 14 at Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Festivities include music, a (hopefully) record-breaking group roar, and more.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Get to Know the Wild Psychedelic Rock of Mexico's Los Dug Dug's

The language of psychedelic rock isn't quite universal, but the band's four albums suggest it's close enough

‘The Humans’ Is an Engrossing, Eerie Family Portrait

What SD Rep’s latest lacks in dramatic punch, it makes up for in dialogue and atmosphere

Seven Ways to Give Back As a Group

Grab your coworkers, friends, book club, or church members
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Best Chicken Wings In San Diego
    The results of food critic Troy Johnson’s epic quest for the city’s best tiny chicken
  2. San Diego's Best New Restaurants of 2019
    From a 200 million-dollar renovation project to a dirty little burger, these made a dent
  3. The Must-Try Dishes of 2019
    SD Mag food critic and Food Network judge Troy Johnson names his top dishes of the year
  4. Video: A Peek At Our Insiders Club
    For members only…New perks, insider info and access to the editors
  5. The SoCal (Social Calendar!)
    From black-tie galas to costumed 5Ks, these events will keep your social calendar full—and you feeling good
  6. Where to Celebrate New Year's Eve in San Diego 2020
    Whether you’re celebrating the end of a decade or the beginning of a new one, these are fine choices of venue.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles

October is Rideshare Month

Join the Rideshare 2015 Challenge and get there together
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Come See What’s New in Palm Springs

This SoCal city is constantly reinventing the landscape with new places to stay and play

Win Tickets to the 42nd Annual SDCCU Holiday Bowl

This year’s USC vs. Iowa match-up marks the Holiday Bowl’s third straight paring of teams that are ranked nationally in the top 25
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags