The San Diego Zoo is arguably the most famous zoo anywhere. An outgrowth of an exhibit from the Panama-California International Exhibition, San Diego was for all intents and purposes the world’s first truly modern zoo. It pioneered the concept of cageless exhibits which has since become the standard at zoos everywhere. The San Diego Zoo has the largest zoological membership association with more than half a million members world wide.
The zoo began when an exotic animal exhibit was abandoned in 1915 after the Panama-California Exposition. A local zoological society was founded to make arrangements for the animals in 1916, effectively beginning the San Diego Zoo. A permanent location for the zoo was established in the renowned Balboa Park in 1921. The first long-term zoo director was Belle Benchley, formerly a beekeeper, who served from 1925 to 1953. She was the first woman in the world to hold such a position. From the outside, the San Diego Zoo was foremost in the development of moated, cageless environments that were more humane for the animals. It is now among the world’s most visited zoos.
San Diego is a relatively average size zoo, with over six hundred species and nearly four thousand animals. Although this is lower than might be expected, almost all of the animals live in large open-air environments, allowing for plenty of living space. Exhibits are focused less on geographic themes and more on environments for the more popular species, including Elephant, Gorilla and Tiger. The zoo’s most popular attraction, hands down, is the Panda Trek, the oldest permanent panda home in the United States.
The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park, approximately two miles north of Downtown San Diego. It is open every day of the year from 9:00am-5:00pm. The cost of admission is $46.00. Web: http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org (official website).