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|Location||San Francisco, California
|Land area||100 acres (40 ha)|
|No. of animals||1000+ (2015)|
|No. of species||250+ (2015)|
|Major exhibits||African Savanna, Gorilla Preserve, Grizzly Gulch, Primate Discovery Center (Lemur Forest), Cat Kingdom, Penguin Island, Red Panda Treehouse, Insect Zoo|
|Public transit access||46th Avenue and Wawona (Muni Metro)|
The San Francisco Zoo is a 100-acre (40 ha) zoo located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, California, between Lake Merced and the Pacific Ocean along the Great Highway. The zoo's main entrance, once located on the north side across Sloat Boulevard and one block south of the Muni Metro L Taraval line, is now to the west on the ocean side of the zoo off of the Great Highway.
This zoo is the birthplace of Koko the gorilla, and, since 1974, the home of Elly, the oldest black rhinoceros in North America. It houses more than 1000 individual animals representing over 250 species, as of 2016.
Originally named the Fleishhacker Zoo after its founder, banker and San Francisco Parks Commission president Herbert Fleishhacker, planning for construction began in 1929 on the site adjacent to what was once the largest swimming pool in the United States, the Fleishhacker Pool. The area was also already home to a children's playground, an original (circa 1921) Michael Dentzel/Marcus Illions carousel, and the Mother's Building, a haven for women and their children. Most of the exhibits were populated with animals transferred from Golden Gate Park, including two zebras, a cape buffalo, five rhesus monkeys, two spider monkeys, and three elephants (Virginia, Marjorie, and Babe).
The first exhibits built in the 1930s cost $3.5 million, which included Monkey Island, Lion House, Elephant House, a small mammal grotto, an aviary, and bear grottos. These spacious, moated enclosures were among the first bar-less exhibits in the country. In 1955, a local San Francisco newspaper purchased Pennie, a baby female Asian elephant, and donated her to the zoo after many children donated their pennies, nickels, and dimes for her purchase.
Over the next 40 years, the Zoological Society became a powerful fundraising source for the San Francisco Zoo, just as Fleishhacker had hoped when he envisioned: "...a Zoological Society similar to those established in other large cities. The Zoological Society will aid the Parks Commission in the acquisition of rare animals and in the operation of the zoo." True to its charter, the Society immediately exerted its influence on the zoo, obtaining more than 1,300 annual memberships in its first 10 years (nearly 25,000 today). It also funded projects like the renovation of the Children's Zoo in 1964, development of the African Scene in 1967, the purchase of medical equipment for the new zoo Hospital in 1975, and the establishment of the Avian Conservation Center in 1978.
In November 2004, Tinkerbelle, San Francisco Zoo's last Asian elephant, was moved to ARK 2000, a sanctuary run by PAWS-Performing Animal Welfare Society located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. She was later joined in March 2005 by the African elephant Lulu, the last elephant on display at the zoo. The moves followed the highly publicized deaths of 38-year-old Calle in March 2004 and 43-year-old Maybelle in April 2004.
In early 2006, the SF Zoo announced its offer to name a soon-to-hatch American bald eagle after comedian Stephen Colbert. The publicity and goodwill garnered from coverage of the event on the Colbert Report was a windfall for the zoo and the city of San Francisco. Stephen Jr. was born on April 17, 2006.
The Insect Zoo opened in 1979 and features terrariums containing live arthropods, including millipedes, centipedes, hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, scorpions, velvet ants, termites, walkingsticks and bees. Visitors can examine specimens under microscopes, and there are insect-themed books, videos, puppets and games.
Peafowl roam the zoo grounds freely and are acknowledged officially on the zoo's website.
March, 2015: Treatment of chimps endangers SF Zoo's accreditation: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/S-F-Zoo-s-remaining-chimps-endanger-6120334.php
November, 2014: Baby Kabibe, Western Lowland Gorilla crushed to death by automatic door, SF Zoo ignored safety: (http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2014/11/12/investigator-of-baby-gorilla-death-says-time-to-dramatically-upgrade-sf-zoo)
2004: Elephant deaths and antiquated habitat (http://articles.latimes.com/2004/dec/12/local/me-elephants12)
On December 22, 2006, Tatiana, the 242-pound Siberian tiger, attacked zookeeper Lori Komejan, causing the keeper to be hospitalized for several weeks with lacerated limbs and shock. The Lion House was closed for ten months as a result. California's Division of Occupation Safety and Health found the zoo liable for the keeper's injuries, fined the zoo, and ordered safety improvements.
On December 25, 2007, the same tiger escaped from her grotto and attacked three zoo visitors after being taunted and pummeled by sticks and pine cones by the visitors. Carlos Sousa, 17, of San Jose, California, was killed at the scene, while another taunter was mauled and survived. The tiger was shot and killed by police while hiding in the landscape after the attack. Three other tigers who shared Tatiana's grotto did not escape. Tatiana arrived at the San Francisco Zoo from the Denver Zoo in 2005, in hopes that she would mate. (This "Tatiana" is not the same as the one successfully breeding in the Toronto Zoo.) The attack is the first visitor fatality due to animal escape at a member zoo in the history of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to the association.
The San Francisco Zoo participates in Species Survival Plans, conservation programs sponsored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The program began in 1981 for selected species in North American zoos and aquariums where the breeding of a species done to maintain healthy, self-sustaining, genetically diverse and demographically stable populations. The zoo participates in more than 30 SSP programs, working to conserve species ranging from Madagascan radiated tortoises and reticulated giraffes to black rhinos and gorillas.
Media related to San Francisco Zoo at Wikimedia Commons