San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

When I was a kid I remember watching a TV show, a natural history documentary series, that was shot around San Diego Zoo, and was impressed even than by a zoo that is considered to be one of the world’s best.

Today there are two facets to the zoo, the first of which is the original zoo itself, which is located in Balboa Park in central San Diego, and the Safari Park which is located 35 miles (60kms) away at Escondido in the San Pasqual Valley.

The zoo covers 100 acres (40 hectares) and holds over 4,000 animals belonging to over 800 species, which are housed in a variety of habitats and bioclimatic zones. The zoo was a pioneer in keeping its animals housed in cageless exhibits, which were pens that were surrounded by moats, with the first moated lion enclosure opening in 1922.

There are a number of quite brilliant exhibits at the zoo these days one of which is the Panda Trek. San Diego Zoo has had a very successful panda reproduction programme which has produced pandas that have been sent back to China to participate in their breeding programs too.

Amazingly, zoo experts have been able to recreate environments within to the zoo which comfortably house animals and birds which live in a range of diverse places from sultry rain forests, to harsh outback environments and even to cold polar regions.

The Safari Park is much larger than the zoo, covering an area of 1,800 acres (730 hectares) , most of which has been set aside to protect native American species of animals. Within the park are held over 3,000 animals comprised of more than 400 species. This is where the herd animals are kept, and are allowed to roam within a familiar environment.

The two largest exhibits are the Asian Savannah and African Plains exhibits with the African Plains being divided into areas where animals from East Africa, North Africa and Southern Africa roam. Condor Ridge is where condors and North American Bighorn Sheep are displayed.

There are also a number of smaller exhibits and interactive displays, including a talking zebra.

Both the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park represent the best examples of how contemporary zoos are presented these days, where the emphasis is on preserving species and on housing them in pens that are as close to their natural environments as possible. The zoo has an excellent breeding and conservation programme which aims to increase the likelihood of endangered species surviving and continuing on into the future.

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