In 1916, a prosperous local surgeon Harry Wegeforth decided that San Diego area lacked a zoo; thus, San Diego Zoo was created and its collections began to grow rapidly. Charles Schroeder occupied the post of director in 1953 and it was him, who turned the San Diego Zoo into the greatest zoo in the United States. In the period from 1953 to 1973, when Charles Schroeder left, the zoo's budget grew from five hundred thousand dollars to eight million, and it was Charles Schroeder, who started the idea of "cageless" exhibits and who brought rare and endangered species to the zoo.
During this period, the San Diego Zoo turned into a marvelous landscaped park, which today even eclipses the shine of California Disneyland. Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. Many exhibits looks natural with invisible wires, darkened blinds (to view birds) and transparent glass walls; pools and open-air moats are created to house large mammals. Some of the largest free-flight aviaries can be found in the San Diego Zoo.
Giant pandas live and play in their native surroundings of fringe trees, fishtail palms and bamboos. The exhibit area is equipped with winding, elevated viewing paths that provide great watching opportunities for visitors. Bamboo is grown on the Zoo grounds and at several off-grounds locations to supply the pandas with their daily meals. The San Diego Zoo currently has the largest population of giant pandas outside of the mainland China, Bai Yun (female), Gao Gao (male), two year old Mei Sheng, and a female panda cub, Su Lin, born on August 2, 2005.
The south-Asian rain forest of the San Diego Zoo is home to orangutans and siamangs. The animals live and play in the same terrain as they would in the wild among numerous trees, climbing structures, ropes and sway poles, enjoy... mustard, honey and a barbeque sauce and even become heroes! The most famous orangutan of the San Diego Zoo was Ken Allen (1971-2000), known for his many escapes in the early 1980s. He turned into a San Diego folk hero with his own fan club and T-shirts, bumper stickers and even songs, created in his honor.
Although the arctic tundra is alien to the San Diego area, the San Diego Zoo makes it possible to create it and you can enjoy the watching of polar bears, Siberian reindeer, Pallas' cats and northern birds in the snow and ice of tundra. The Polar Bear Plunge is one of the largest polar bear exhibits in the world. There is also a duck pond, which is chilled to fifty - sixty degrees Fahrenheit (twelve - fifteen degrees Celsius)-very comfortable for these arctic residents.
As the San Diego Zoo maintains a diversity of natural habitats, it grows an extensive number of plants and even rare animal foods. There are forty varieties of bamboo for the pandas on a long-term loan from China and eighteen varieties of eucalyptus trees to feed its koalas. In fact, the San Diego Zoo is simultaneously a huge botanic garden, growing about seven hundred thousand plants, including orchids, cacti, proteas, zamias, aloes, palms of numerous varieties, cycads, bromeliads, and African tulip trees.
As it may take long hours to explore all wonders of the San Diego Zoo, the facility is committed to make your visit more pleasurable and offers high quality food, a vast variety of choices and a hospitable service in numerous restaurants, carts and stands.