The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, is one of the largest and most progressive zoos in the world, with over 4,000 animals of more than 800 species. It is also one of the few zoos in the world that houses the giant panda. It is privately operated by the nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego on 107 acres (0.43 km2) of parkland leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego.
The first ever YouTube video was shot in San Diego Zoo and was uploaded to it on, April 23, 2005, by the co-creator, Jawed Karim.
Monkey Trails and Forest Tales
Monkey Trails showcases monkeys and other animals from the rainforests of Asia and Africa. It replaced the older exhibit known as the Monkey Yard. Monkey Trails is home primarily to monkeys such as guenons, mangabeys and the colorful mandrill, but it also showcases many other species of animals, such as pigs like red river hogs, bornean bearded pigs, and Visayan Warty Pigs. The elusive clouded leopard also makes his home in Monkey Trails. Clouded leopards can also be seen in the zoo's "Wild Ones" show. Pygmy hippos, slender-snouted crocodiles, and many species of turtles and fish can be seen in a series of water/land exhibits all with underwater viewing areas. The African Aviary is home to many colorful birds such as the amethyst starling, Tinkerbirds and the sociable weaver. In smaller exhibits are many reptiles and amphibians such as Pancake tortoises, green mambas, fire skinks, and many species of arthropods such as scorpions. Monkey Trails utilizes a new method of displaying tree climbing animals- by climbing up an elevated walkway throughout the exhibit. Some of the horticultural highlights in Monkey Trails include a ficus tree, cycads, and the ever colorful bog garden.
Bai YunPanda Research Station
As of September, 2008, the San Diego Zoo is one of four zoos in the U.S. which have giant pandas on display, and is the most successful in terms of panda reproduction. The first two giant panda cubs in U.S. history to have been born in the U.S. and survive into adulthood, Hua Mei (female, born to Bai Yun and Shi Shi) and Mei Sheng (male, born to Bai Yun and Gao Gao), were born at the San Diego Zoo, in 1999 and 2003 respectively. Both have since been moved to China, in 2004 and 2007 respectively. Since then, three more giant panda cubs, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen (both females, Zhen Zhen meaning "Precious"), and Yun Zi (Male, "Son of Cloud"), have been born to the resident giant panda parents Bai Yun and Gao Gao. In addition to being able to view this rare animal species, the Giant Panda Discovery Center nearby has interactive exhibits that let the visitor experience first hand what the animals smell and sound like.
Polar Bear Plunge
Polar Bear Plunge which was recently renovated in March 2010 houses over 30 species representing the Arctic. The main animals in the area are the three polar bears, named Kalluk, Chinook and Tatqiq. Another animal that makes its home in Polar Bear Plunge is the reindeer or caribou. A large moat separates the bears and the deer, but to the guests it would appear that they are in one exhibit, making it more similar to the wild. An underwater viewing area is available to observe the polar bears swimming. Further down the path lies the arctic aviary, home to the Diving ducks including buffleheads, Harlequin duck, the smew and long-tailed ducks. The aviary houses more than 25 species of duck. The last stop on the polar journey is to look at the two cat species in the area, a Pallas cat and a Serval. Some of the horticultural highlights include giant redwood trees, many different pine trees, and manzanita.
When you journey into Gorilla Tropics, you enter a remarkable simulation of an African rain forest. Covering 2.5 acres (1 hectare), Gorilla Tropics transports you to the sights and sounds of Africa, surrounded by thousands of native plants and enhanced by audio of actual environmental sounds of an African rain forest. Your stroll puts you in the perfect rain forest mood by the time you reach the exhibit's centerpiece, the 8,000 square-foot (720 square-meter) enclosure of a troop of western lowland gorillas.
Based upon the real Ituri Forest in Africa, this exhibit houses different animal species from the forests of Africa. Animals such as Allen's Swamp Monkey, guenons, Spotted-necked Otters, and giant African Forest Buffalo can be found coexisting within the exhibit. One of the highlights of the African adventure are the okapis grazing from the trees. These relatives of the giraffe are rarely seen in zoos and are scarcely witnessed in the wild. Some of Ituri Forest's most prominent inhabitants exist within the hippo exhibit, which includes an underwater viewing area and several species of exotic fish, like tilapia. One can also see bongoes and colorful turacos. In the forest, over 30 species of birds reside, including the congo peafowl. Some of the horticultural highlights include banana trees, sausage trees, yellow trumpet trees and even some bamboo.
This exhibit opened on May 26, 2009 in the area once known as Hoof and Horn Mesa. The main feature of the exhibit is the 2.5-acre elephant habitat—more than 3 times the size of the Zoo's former elephant exhibit, in what used to be Elephant Mesa (now the "Urban Jungle"). The herd includes one male (Ranchipur) and eight females (Tembo, Devi, Sumithi, Cha Cha, Mary, Cookie, Tina, and Jewel) and blends the Zoo's herd of one African and two Asian elephants with the Wild Animal Park's four Asian Elephants. Two elephants, Tina and Jewel, were brought to the zoo August 22, 2009. Elephant Odyssey also features a glimpse of the past with the Fossil Portal and life-size statues of ancient creatures of Southern California next to the exhibits of their modern-day counterparts. The ancient life represented include the Columbian Mammoth, the saber-tooth cat, the American lion, the Daggett's eagle, and the Giant Ground Sloth. Elephant Odyssey's other animal exhibits include African lions, jaguars, tapirs, guanacos, tree sloths, Secretary birds, dung beetles, turtles, frogs, camels, pronghorn, horses, rattlesnakes, and for the first time at the Zoo, the California condor.
Part of the larger San Diego Zoo, many exhibits here are kid-sized and kid-oriented with such features as an Animal Nursery and diaper-clad primates. Don't let the name fool you-our Children's Zoo is for everyone to enjoy! But there are lots of special animal exhibits and activities designed with our younger visitors in mind. The popular Petting Paddock allows kids a chance to feel the wooly coat of a sheep or comb a gentle goat's hair. Our two animal nurseries have large viewing windows to let you watch animal babies being bottle-fed or cuddled by our caring keepers.
The Reptile House at the San Diego Zoo has delighted and awed visitors for generations. A stroll around its perimeter allows you to safely view an amazing collection of pythons, cobras, boas, tortoises, rattlesnakes, and gila monsters up close. Youngsters proudly point out to their parents which creatures are venomous-with the help of a red dot on the appropriate signs! Attached to the south side of the Reptile House is the Komodo dragon's expansive enclosure for easy sightings of the largest of all lizards.
To walk through the San Diego Zoo's Scripps Aviary is to enter a lush African rain forest, complete with rushing waterfalls and exotic plants. Look above and you might spot some of the more than 200 colorful African native birds, including the blue-naped mousebird, silvery-checked hornbill, and gold-breasted starling. In the Scripps Aviary, the birds' free flight is easily accommodated: the enclosure measures 90 feet (27 meters) high and 150 feet (46 meters) long.
Things NOT Included with General Admission Price
The zoo offers a Guided Tour Bus that traverses 75% of the park. Enjoy a 35-minute tour on a double-decked bus. Your bus tour ticket also includes use of the Express Bus, double- or single-decked buses with green signs on the sides that allow guests to hop on and off at five different stops throughout the Zoo. The Express buses pass by the stops every 20 minutes or less and provide transportation around the Zoo. Bus Tour tickets are included in the 1-Day Pass Admission price; they are not included in the General Admission price but may be purchased for $10 per adult, $7 per child ages 3–11. Members pay $8.50 per adult, $5 per child. (UNLIMITED USE WITH DAY PASS TICKETS)
An overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, provides an aerial view of the zoo. The Skyfari was built in 1969 by the Von Roll tramway company of Bern, Switzerland.The San Diego Zoo Skyfari is a Von Roll type 101. Cost is $3 each way. I would suggest walking through the Zoo on foot and then riding the Skyfari back to the entrance. (UNLIMITED USE WITH DAY PASS TICKETS)
Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. The same exhibit features many different animals that can be found side-by-side in the wild, along with native plant life. Exhibits range from an African rain forest (featuring gorillas) to the Arctic taiga and tundra in the summertime (featuring polar bears). Some of the largest free-flight aviaries in existence are here. Many exhibits are "natural" with invisible wires and darkened blinds (to view birds), and pools and open-air moats (for large mammals).
The San Diego Zoo grew out of exotic animal exhibitions abandoned after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth founded the Zoological Society of San Diego, meeting October 2, 1916, and initially following precedents set by the Bronx ZooNew York Zoological Society. A permanent tract of land in Balboa Park was set aside in August 1921, and the zoo began to move in the following year. The publication ZooNooz commenced in early 1925.
Frank Buck went to work as temporary director for the San Diego Zoo on June 13, 1923, signed to a three year contract by Dr. Wegeforth. Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo, had recommended Buck for the job. But Buck quickly clashed with the strong-willed Wegeforth and left the zoo after three months to return to animal collecting.
After several other equally short-lived zoo directors, Dr. Wegeforth appointed the zoo's bookkeeper, Belle Benchley, to the position of executive secretary, in effect zoo director; she was given the actual title of zoo director a few years later. She served as zoo director from 1925 until 1953. For most of that time she was the only female zoo director in the world. She was succeeded as director by Dr. Charles Schroeder.
Until the 1960s, admission for children under 16 was free regardless of whether they were accompanied by a paying adult.
The San Diego Zoo has been a pioneer in building "cageless" exhibits. The zoo's Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) was founded in 1975 at the urging of Dr. Kurt Benirschke, who became its first director. CRES was renamed the division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species in 2005 to better reflect its mission. In 2009 CRES was significantly expanded to become the Institute for Conservation Research.
The world's only albino koala in a zoological facility was born at the San Diego Zoo and was named Onya-Birri, which means "ghost boy" in an Australian Aboriginal language.
The San Diego Zoo also has the largest number of koalas outside of Australia.
The largest number of New Guinea Singing Dogs in one place in the world is at the San Diego Zoo with seven. Two of the dogs are on exhibit and have recently given birth to four pups, and one is off exhibit and does shows and is present at other events. New Guinea Singing Dogs are vulnerable to becoming endangered.
Hours of operation
(open every day of the year, including all holidays)
Current Hours (through June 25):
9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Summer Hours (June 26–September 6):
9 a.m.–9 p.m.
Fall Hours (September 7–October 3*):
9 a.m.–6 p.m.
*September 25 only: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Winter Hours (October 4–December 9):
9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Winter Hours/Jungle Bells (December 10–23; December 26–30; January 1 and 2):
9 a.m.–8 p.m.
Winter Hours (December 24, 25, and 31):
9 a.m.–7 p.m.
Please be aware that we do not allow smoking on grounds at the San Diego Zoo.
Rentals: Strollers, lockers, and motorized wheelchairs are available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis near the entrance. Prices: strollers, $10; double strollers, $15; wheelchairs, $10; electric scooters, $35 (membership number or state identification card number is required).
Lockers: Coin-operated lockers are available to guests on grounds behind the Reptile House, near Wegeforth Bowl.
Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs): These conveniences are located near the front of the Reptile House, at the Treehouse Trader, and next to the Canyon Café.
Kennels: There are no kennels provided for pets.
Security Office and Lost and Found: Visit our Security Office, located at the Zoo’s main entrance, if you have lost an item or child. Open daily to closing.
First Aid: A staffed first-aid station is located on the north side of the Zoo’s Reptile House. Open daily to closing.
Sea Lion Show: This show spotlights animals that can be found around the globe and, as always, features our charismatic California sea lions. Show schedule: Daily at 11 a.m. in Wegeforth Bowl, with additional shows during weekends, summer, and school holidays.
Take Flight—An Avian Adventure: The skies above Hunte Amphitheater are a little friendlier—and more exciting! This amazing new free-flight bird show, by trainer and producer extraordinaire Steve Martin, showcases the airborne comedic talents of winged wonders, including ravens, eagles, storks, macaws, and many more, during daytime presentations. Who knew birds had such a great sense of humor? Daily at Noon and 2 p.m.
Dr. Zoolittle Show: Join our physician of fun, Dr. Zoolittle, in the Children’s Zoo’s Clark Theater for this interactive and hilarious show. Daily during summer, weekends, and school holidays.
ADULT (12+) $24.50 CHILDREN (3-11) $16.50
Does NOT include use of Guided Bus Tour, Express Bus or Skyfari Aerial Tram
Includes unlimited use of Guided Bus Tour, Express Bus, Skyfari Aerial Tram
ADULT (12+) $37 CHILDREN (3-11) $27
Includes 1-Day Pass to the Zoo and a 1-Day Pass to the Wild Animal Park
Two 1-Day Passes to the Zoo
Two 1-Day Passes to the Wild Animal Park
ADULT (12+) $70 CHILDREN (ages 3-11) $50
Tickets valid for one year from issue date. Tickets require signature and photo ID.
San Diego 3-for-1 Pass
San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass , Wild Animal Park 1-Day Pass, and SeaWorld San Diego for unlimited entry for 5 days from first use.
ADULT (10+) $121 CHILDREN (ages 3-9) $99
Southern California City-Pass
San Diego Zoo 1-Day Pass OR Wild Animal Park 1-Day Pass, SeaWorld San Diego, Disneyland Resort Park Hopper, and Universal Studios. Must visit all attractions within 14 days of first use.