Los Angeles Zoo History
The Los Angeles Zoo was the fourth zoo to serve the city.
1885: The City-owned Eastlake Zoo opens in East Los Angeles Park.
1912: The Griffith Park Zoo opens (a few miles from the current Los Angeles Zoo site) with 15 animals.
1915: “Colonel” William Selig opens his combination movie studio and zoo, the Selig Zoo, in Lincoln Park.
By 1956, the citizens of Los Angeles realized their city had outgrown the small Griffith Park Zoo and passed a $6.6 million bond measure to help build a new one.
August 1966: The Griffith Park Zoo closes. The first group of animals moves from the Griffith Park Zoo to the new location.
November 28, 1966: The Los Angeles Zoo opens. Among the animals at the Zoo on opening day was American alligator Methuselah, who passed away in 2010.
1967: Two three-month-old polar bear cubs arrive at the Zoo. Bruno died of cancer in 1996, but Sweetheart went on to set a longevity record for polar bears in captivity.
1967: The L.A. Zoo acquires a pair of extremely rare Arabian oryx, the beginning of one of the Zoo’s most successful breeding programs.
1970: The first annual Beastly Ball, a safari-themed dinner-dance was held. The Ball is the Zoo’s largest—and most highly anticipated—fundraising event each year.
1970: Twinkletoes, an African-born black rhinoceros, delivers the first rhinoceros calf born in California.
1972: The Zoo becomes an accredited member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA).
1977: The world’s first gorilla baby delivered by Caesarian section is born at the Los Angeles Zoo. Weighing in at 5 pounds, 2 ounces, he is named Caesar.
1981: The Zoo becomes a partner in the California Condor Recovery Program, helping to bring this majestic bird back from the brink of extinction.
1982: Six Victorian Koalas arrive from the Melbourne Zoo and take up residence in the Ahmanson Koala House, the recipient of a Significant Achievement Award from the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums.
1984: Pandas Yun Yun and Ying Xin arrive for a three-month stay just in time for the Summer Olympics. The China Pavilion built to house the pandas was later converted into a powerful animal holding facility.
1988: A donation from Alice C. Tyler funds a new meerkat exhibit. These charming creatures would later provide inspiration for the animators of Disney’s The Lion King.
1990s: The Zoo creates what will become one of the largest volunteer enrichment programs in the country. Enrichment refers to objects or activities designed to enrich the psychological and physical well-being of the animals.
1990: The World of Birds Show debuts thanks to a gift from Nestle USA.
1993: Tiger exhibit refurbished including the addition of a waterfall thanks to a gift from Purina.
1998: Chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains exhibit opens.
2001: Winnick Family Children’s Zoo, named for donors Gary and Karen Winnick, opens, featuring a petting zoo, outdoor amphitheater, and indoor interactive learning center.
2002: The Zoo is accredited by the American Association of Museums and renamed the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
2005: Opening of the new Zoo Entry Plaza, Children’s Discovery Center, and Sea Lion Cliffs.
2006: The Zoo’s veterinary hospital renamed the Gottlieb Animal Health and Conservation Center in honor of donor Suzanne Gottlieb and her late husband, Robert.
2007: Campo Gorilla Reserve opens. The state-of-the-art facility contains two habitats; one of the family troop, and the other for the pair of bachelors.
2010: The opening of the Elephants of Asia habitat is the largest exhibit in the Zoo’s history, with over six acres of land that showcases the elephants and informs visitors about the challenges Asian elephants face in the wild.
2011: The Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel opens, made possible by a generous gift from Ann and Jerry Moss. Special features include over 64 hand-carved wooden figures, and exquisitely conceived and painted art work representing the flora and fauna of California.
2012: Representing over 60 species, the LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles) facility opens. Each habitat is beautifully themed to exemplify the natural environments of the diverse inhabitants; with hand-painted murals of damp and misty forests, rainforest canopies, red rock formations, mountain ranges and vistas, and dry arid deserts. Additionally, the structure will provide a vital base for the Zoo’s reptile and amphibian-focused conservation initiatives.
2014: April 29th, 2014 marked the opening of the Rainforest of the Americas exhibit, the final phase of the L.A. Zoo’s master plan that was initiated over a decade ago to perform zoo-wide improvements. The exhibit includes mammals like the Central American tapir and giant river otter, reptiles such as the emerald tree boa, bird species like the harpy eagle and keel-billed toucan, goliath bird-eating spiders, red bellied piranhas, and much more.
The final portion of the construction plan, a new exhibit for the Zoo’s jaguars, was completed in early 2015.