San Francisco, California, United States of America
San Francisco Zoo occupies 125 acres in the southwest part of the city, making it the largest and oldest zoo in Northern California. The first exhibits were constructed in 1930 for a handful of exotic animals donated from Golden Gate Park. It is now home to about 1000 animals of 260 different species. The habitats at the time included Monkey Island, The Lion House, small mammal grotto, the bear grotto, and the Elephant House and were the most spacious and first barless exhibits in the country separating the animals from the public with moats. In 2004, this zoo was applauded by animal lovers everywhere to be the first zoo to ever publicly acknowledge that there is no way to create enclosures large enough to humanely display elephants at a zoo. The last two elephants surviving at the zoo were transferred to a sanctuary, and there are no longer any elephants on display.
The zoo prides itself on inspiring a caring for nature, and goes to great lengths to provide the guest both with amazing viewing of its animals in open, natural enclosures while educating them on the best ways to conserve their wild counterparts. At the Feline Conservation Center, for example, the public can learn about and see some of the most endangered and beautiful exotic cats in the world including the snow leopard, the Malayan fishing cat, and the ocelot. At the Doelger Primate Discovery Center, guests will see very rare primate species highly endangered in the wild as well, including the dramatic Black Howler Monkey, siamangs, Emperor Tamarins, and the Lion-tailed Macaque. While most of the monkeys enjoy the vertical offerings of trees and structures in their enclosures, some like it better on the ground, and that’s where the visitor will see the colorful Mandrills.
The Jones Family Gorilla Preserve is an acre of lush habitat for the zoos six Western lowland Gorillas, including the most recent edition to the family, little Hasani born to Monifa and Oscar Joensy, the resident silverback, in 2008. Through the glass visitors can get up close to the animals, and watch the antics of these humanlike creatures in their family group. Close by, is the African Savannah, featuring several species of African animals living together in a 3 acre space. Giraffe, zebra, kudus and Oryx (both species of antelope) roam about freely in this huge enclosure that closely mimics their native habitat.
One of the best exhibits for people with small children visiting the zoo is the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo, a six-acre “park within a park”. Originally established in 1960, the concept was to create more of a Storyland with nursery rhyme-themed attractions. Now that idea has evolved to weave in the overall concept of animals and people “Living Together”. Like many zoos, there is a petting area. But there is much more, including the comical meerkats, and a section with animals native to North and South America and age appropriate information on how to conserve and protect wildlife locally.
A few other highlights are but not limited to the koalas, the penguin area where 205 chicks have hatched since 1984, the bear grotto with Polar, Grizzly and spectacled bears often seen playing with their enrichment toys, the American Bald Eagle named “Steven Colbert”, the Insect Zoo and the historic Lion House. The lions can be viewed outside, but inside the lion house a visitor can get a glimpse at the world of big cat management and learn about what it takes to ensure the well-being and health of these massive carnivores.