The Unexpected Origins of the San Diego Zoo

Did you know that the history of the San Diego Zoo spans over 100 years? How we came to have this now-famous facility in our city is a rather unusual story.

It turns out that the Zoo’s creation was the result of a highly unlikely confluence of seemingly unrelated events.

The official exposition would celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, after ten years of very challenging construction under the control of the United States.

1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition

The Exposition proved wildly successful. Organizers extended it for another full year and renamed it the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition.

1915 Panama-California Exposition

One of the amusement park’s promoted attractions was a “menagerie” that included, lions, bears, leopards, and 56 varieties of monkeys.

Animals at the Exposition

In January 1916, a storm destroyed its biggest attraction, the Blue Streak Racer, which was the largest roller coaster on the West Coast at the time.

What Happened to Wonderland?

Likely knowing that the Wonderland animals would have nowhere to go after the Exposition closed, he founded the Zoological Society of San Diego on October 2, 1916.

A Lion Roared

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