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Zoos: Santa Barara Zoological Gardens – a Potted History

Related: Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens / Brevard Zoo / Gatorama

Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens is a zoo located in Santa Barbara, California – about 90 miles north of Los Angeles. 

The zoo was founded in 1963 by dedicated members of the local community through the Santa Barbara Foundation via an Estate being left to them by Lillian Child and, although it is not a large zoo compared with others, it has become renowned for being one of the world’s most beautiful zoos being located within 30 acres of lush, botanical gardens which overlook the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. 

The zoo’s gardens contain formal gardens and lawns as well as housing native trees and plants, cacti and many other exotic plantings and ornamentals.  This provides a magnificent natural habitat for the zoo’s 500 animals which make up 160 different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

Popular exhibits at the zoo include the Elephant Walk featuring two female Asian elephants, Sujatha and Little Mac, who have lived at the zoo since 1972. A ‘creepy crawlie’ exhibit includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, the goliath bird eating tarantula and many other species of bugs, lizards, spiders and snakes which aren’t meant to scare you but to educate you in the important role they have to play in the wider ecosystem.

A family of gibbons lives on its own island at the zoo and you’ll often hear their ‘whooping’ call. There are also flamingos, Channel Island foxes, penguins, lions with their cubs, gorillas, anteaters, snow leopards and a tropical aviary.

Some of the newest additions to the zoo are the Goeldi and Titi Monkeys with the Titi Monkeys demonstrating their unusual way of bonding by wrapping their tails together. 

Another popular feature at the zoo which is aimed more at school children is the ‘Zoo Snooze’ where you get to stay overnight, camping on the lawn next to the lion exhibit in the warmer weather (or in an indoor heated classroom in winter) and where you will enjoy close up encounters with the animals and get to take a sneaky peak behind the scenes at the zoo’s operations.

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