Los Angeles, California, United States of America
The Los Angeles Zoo is a city owned and operated zoo, and employees, including keepers, are city employees. The zoo was initially built in another area in 1912, but in 1965 it moved to its current location in Griffith Park, also home to the world famous Griffith Observatory. The zoo encompasses 113 acres and is home to more than 1100 from 250 different species. IN recent years, the zoo has been expanding and improving exhibits to make them more suited to the well-being of the animals and to more closely represent their natural environments. The zoo has also been instrumental in assisting in bringing back the California Condor from the brink of extinction by onsite captive breeding programs. These giant scavengers at one time numbered only 22 animals, but with help of accredited zoos around the country, there are now more than 300 animals.
The zoo has added many new habitats in the past few decades, but the most notable is the Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains, which opened in 1998. The exhibit is more than an acre, and is home to one of the largest captive chimpanzee troops in the world. Grassy knolls, mountain like rock formations, waterfalls and streams create a tropical atmosphere much like the parts of Africa in which wild chimps live. The enclosure also has “penthouses” with heated bedrooms, and a playground complete with ape friendly jungle gym.
Similar in concept to the chimp exhibit is the orangutan area, the Red Ape Rainforest. This multi-level enclosure has a tropical forest with walking platforms that pass along 20 foot bamboo trees, fruit trees, and a large viewing platform from which guests can watch the great apes climb around the simulated canopy. Western lowland gorillas also call the LA Zoo home, with seven gorillas in residence. There are two separate groups of gorillas, one a family group and one with just bachelor males. The gorillas are easily viewable through both a glass viewing area and across a moat.
Very few zoos outside Australia are home to koalas, but fortunately the Los Angeles zoo is able to provide the appropriate type of eucalyptus to keep these furry, shy marsupials healthy. In the Australia area of the zoo, the lights are dim and there is not flash photography in order to keep the koalas happy and calm. Kiwis are also rarely shared outside Australia, but they too are living in this exhibit. Other Australian animals featured close by are kangaroos, echidnas and wallabies.
In 2001, the zoo opened the Winnick Family Zoo, with a petting zoo with many cuddly as well as many odd animals to visit, as well as enclosure with many smaller mammals. Here at the Family area of the zoo is where an encounter called Animals and You takes place. There are fifteen minute hands on educational encounters with a keeper where guests big and small meet an animal close up, are able to touch the animal, if they want. Some of the animals featured are hedgehogs, a few types of tarantula, black rat snakes, desert tortoises, armadillo or even the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach! Kid friendly activities are also offered at the Neil Papiano Play Park area, complete with animal themed climbing structures, water misters, and a toddler area.
Sea Life Cliffs is the marine exhibit at the zoo, and the enclosure mimics the rocky coastlines of the Northern Pacific. Harbor seals and gray seals are viewable from both above and below the water. Other animals not to miss are the bright faced Mandrill, the odd but beautiful rainforest dwelling Okapi, and the rare yellow-footed rock wallaby. The zoo was also established as a Botanical Garden in 2002, and has 15 collections of unique flora, featuring more than 800 species of plant life.