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Zoos: San Francisco Zoo – a Potted History

Palm Beach Zoo / Santa Barara Zoological Gardens / Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens 

San Francisco Zoo is a zoo located in the southwest corner of San Francisco, California on the Great Highway lying between Lake Merced and the Pacific Ocean. 

Founded back in the early 1930s by Herbert Fleishbacker (it was originally called ‘Fleishbacker Zoo’); it is the largest and oldest zoo in northern California. The original construction began on a site that was once called ‘Fleishbacker Pool’ which was once the largest swimming pool in the entire United States. 

This original site for the zoo already had a carousel, children’s playground before animals were introduced and, initially, the first animals, which included three elephants, two zebras, and around 7 rhesus and spider monkeys were brought over from Golden Gate Park. 

Further expansion to the zoo in the 1930s saw exhibits like Monkey Island, the Elephant House and the Lion House as well as a number of separate ‘grottos’ for bears and mammals as well as a small aviary.

Today, there are well over 250 species, many of which are endangered, from the smallest insect to the tallest giraffe. There are various species of bears, monkeys and lemurs, rhino, tiger, zebra and even Prairie Dog and many more mammals besides. The zoo is also home to a fascinating collection of birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. 

Much of the zoo’s success can be placed at the hands of the Zoological Society which has been involved with the zoo for around 50 years and which has funded many of its projects as well as helping to establish over 25, 000 members to the zoo which receives over 1 million visitors every year.

As well as a being a family attraction, the zoo participates in several conservation projects around the world. These include saving lions and lemurs, guarding cheetahs and protecting gorillas in Africa to conserving jaguars and parrots and helping pied tamarins in South America.

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