San Diego Zoo: Celebrating our first 90 years

There are many wonderful stories that make up the history of the San Diego Zoo. It is inspiring to look back at the impressive record of our organization and recall some of the landmark events that helped shaped our goals and vision throughout nine decades.

We like to say the Zoo "began with a roar" in 1916 when our founder, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, heard the roar of caged lions that were part of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. Dr. Harry, as he was affectionately called, decided then and there that San Diego was ready for a zoo and later convinced the city to follow his lead.

Since those humble beginnings, the San Diego Zoo has grown to a world-class animal facility. We were one of the first zoos to have open grotto enclosures without iron bars for lions, tigers, and bears-oh my! In 1972 the Zoo opened its sister facility, the Wild Animal Park, featuring animals living in natural groupings inside huge field exhibits. And in 1975 we founded CRES (Conservation and Research for Endangered Species), now one of the largest zoo-based research centers in the world.

There are other "firsts" as well, from being the first zoo outside of Australia to house koalas to the successful birth of giant panda Hua Mei. Explore many of them by clicking on the timeline above. What will the next 90 years bring?