San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Entrance to the Park
|Location||15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd. Escondido, California 92027.|
|Land area||1,800 acres (7.3 km2) (2.8 sq mi)|
|Number of animals||2600+|
|Number of species||300+|
|Major exhibits||African Plains, African Outpost, African Woods, Asian Savanna, Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley, Gorilla Forest, Hidden Jungle, Lion Camp, Nairobi Village, Tiger Territory|
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park until 2010, is an 1,800 acre (730 ha) zoo in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego, California, near Escondido. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in San Diego County. The park houses a large array of wild and endangered animals including species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. The park is in a semi-arid environment, and one of its most notable features is the Africa Tram which explores the expansive African exhibits. These free-range enclosures house such animals as antelopes, giraffes, buffalo, cranes, and rhinoceros. The park is also noted for its California condor breeding program, the most successful such program in the United States.
The park, visited by 2 million people annually, houses over 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species, as well as 3,500 plant species.
Depending on the season, the park has about 400 to 600 employees. The park is also Southern California's quarantine center for zoo animals imported into the United States through San Diego.
The park has the world's largest veterinary hospital. Next door to the hospital is the Institute for Conservation Research which holds the park's Frozen Zoo.
Both the park and the San Diego Zoo are run by the Zoological Society of San Diego. The park is 32 miles (51 km) away from the zoo, at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road east of Escondido, California, along California State Route 78.
The San Diego Zoological Society became interested in developing the Wild Animal Park in 1964. The idea of the park began as a supplementary breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo, which would allow ample space for large animals and ungulates.
The development proposed would differ significantly from that of a typical zoo in that animals would be exhibited in a natural environment rather than in cages. In 1964, the park was assessed financially and then moved onto the next phase; this resulted in three alternative developments. There was an idea for a conservation farm, a game preserve, and a natural environment zoo. The natural environment zoo development was chosen over the conservation farm and game preserve even though it was the most expensive option. The estimated initial cost was $1,755,430.
The main purposes of this zoo were to be species conservation, breeding of animals for the San Diego Zoo as well as other zoos and providing areas where zoo animals could be conditioned. When it came to naming the park, five titles were considered: San Diego Animal Land, San Diego Safari Land, San Diego Wild Animal Safari, San Diego Wildlife Park and San Diego Wild Animal Park.
The scheduled opening day of the park was set for April 1, 1972; however, the gates did not open until Wednesday May 10, 1972. The general layout of the park, designed by Charles Faust, included a large lagoon with a jungle plaza, an African fishing village, an aviary at the entrance of the park and approximately 50,000 plants were to be included in the landscaping. Although the park was scheduled to open in three years from the time of the groundbreaking, the total development of the park was estimated to take ten years.
In the summer of 2003, the San Diego Zoological Society and Lowry Park Zoo orchestrated the capture of 11 wild African elephants from the Hlane Royal National Park in Swaziland. The zoos said the animals were scheduled to be killed due to overpopulation. However, the Save Wild Elephants Coalition disputed this, reporting that there were three other sanctuaries in Africa that had offered to take the elephants. Seven of these elephants are now at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and cumulatively they have produced thirteen babies as of 2013.  In March 2012 five elephants were moved to the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, to form a new herd. A bull elephant, two cows, and two baby bulls were moved and in return two cow elephants that had been together for years, Connie an Asian elephant and Shaba an African elephant, were sent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Connie died from cancer in July 2012 just five months after the move. Shaba was slowly introduced into the herd in February 2013.
The California wildfires of October 2007 that officially started on October 21, 2007, burned 600 acres (2.4 km2) of native habitat preserved in the park and caused it to temporarily close. The park also moved many of their endangered animals out of danger. The fire did not reach any of the main enclosures and no animals were killed directly by the fire, although deaths of a clapper rail and kiang were attributed to indirect effects of the blaze.
On June 30, 2010 the San Diego Zoo Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the park to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Exhibits and attractions
- Asian Savanna and African Plains
The park's largest exhibits, covering over 300 acres (120 ha), are the open-range enclosures. Visitors view various plains habitats from Africa and Asia. Asian Savanna covers 60 acres (24 ha) and displays Indian rhinoceros and several species of Asian deer and antelope such as axis deer and wapiti. African Plains represents many regions and habitats. East Africa displays Cape buffalo, Southern white rhinoceros, Ugandan giraffe, several other savanna species, and a lagoon with East African Crowned Crane The North Africa exhibit represents the Sahel and Sahara and houses scimitar-horned oryx, Barbary stag, red-fronted gazelle, and Ankole cattle. The Southern Africa field exhibits Grevy's zebras. The Central Africa region features a wooded waterhole with an island for Pink-backed Pelicans, Saddle-billed Storks, and Rüppell's Vultures. On the shores of the lake are bongos, red river hogs, and Vaal rheboks, and other forest animals. A number of smaller enclosures visible only from the tram are home to Somali wild asses, kiangs (one of the world's only captive populations of this endangered wild equine), Arabian oryx, gorals, Japanese serows, black rhinoceroses, and Przewalski's wild horses.
Species of note in the open enclosures include two subspecies of giraffe, rhinos (the park has the world's most successful breeding program for Southern white rhinos and is the only New World zoo to have Northern white rhinos), gaur, vultures, markhor, and many species of antelope, gazelle, and deer.
- Nairobi Village and Gorilla Forest
The park's Nairobi Village houses numerous exhibits for smaller animals. Among these are meerkats, an African Aviary, lemurs, flamingos, red river hogs, and bee eaters. A large lagoon is home to numerous species of waterfowl such as shoebill storks. Lorikeet Landing and Hidden Jungle display feedable Lories and lorikeets, and African birds, respectively. There is a nursery where visitors can watch baby animals being hand-reared as well as a nearby petting corral. Finally, a gorilla habitat houses a troop of Western lowland gorillas. A flying fox bat exhibit is scheduled to be built here.
- Hidden Jungle
Located in Nairobi Village, this climate-controlled indoor exhibit opened in 1993 and displays tropical African birds and insects. The entrance to the building is a simulated earthen crevasse with displays for stick insects and arachnids. The underground segment opens up to a room representing the rainforest understory, which leads to a second room representing the canopy. On display are Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Purple Grenadier, and other birds.
Hidden Jungle is the setting of the annual Butterfly Jungle event.
- Lion Camp
Opened in October 2004, Lion camp houses the park's African lions in a 1-acre (0.40 ha) exhibit. One side of the enclosure is dominated by an artificial rock kopje which has a 40-foot-long (12 m) glass viewing window and heated rocks. The path continues along an acacia-studded ravine and leads to a replica observation tent. This has a smaller viewing window as well as a Land Rover for the lions to rest on.
- Condor Ridge
Condor Ridge displays endangered North American desert wildlife. The featured species are California condors (the wild animal park was the key force in the recovery effort for these birds and this is one of the only places in the world where the public can see them in captivity) and desert bighorn sheep. Other species displayed include Aplomado Falcons, Thick-billed Parrots, prairie dogs, black footed ferrets, magpies, and desert tortoises.
- African Woods and African Outpost
Formerly known as Heart of Africa, these are two of the park's major exhibits. Visitors go down a trail which replicates habitats in Africa. The exhibit begins in African Woods with scrub animals - vultures, lesser kudu, and giant eland. It then progresses to forest (okapi, duikers, and wattled cranes). The path then leads to African Outpost, which features plains animals - bontebok, warthogs, ground hornbills, and cheetahs - against a backdrop of the open-range East Africa exhibit. A central lagoon has lesser and greater flamingos, waterfowl, an island with colobus monkeys, and an interpretive research camp on a separate island.
- Tours and Rides
The park formerly operated a monorail line, the Wgasa Bush Line, which ran through the Wild Animal Park. The name of the monorail was chosen by chief designer Chuck Faust.
The Monorail line has been retired, partially due to high maintenance costs, and in March 2007 the Journey into Africa attraction, now renamed Africa Tram, opened. The Africa Tram tour brings visitors to the field exhibits to see wildlife from different parts of Africa. In addition, another route is planned to bring visitors through the Asian field exhibits and into eight new ones that will house a variety of African animals from rock hyrax to Hartmann's mountain zebras. The tour utilizes a wheeled tram that runs on biofuel instead of a monorail, and, unlike the monorail, the attraction now costs extra; however, it remains free for members of the San Diego Zoological Society.
As well as the tram, the park has also added a tethered balloon ride that allows visitors to see the plains exhibits from 400 feet (120 m) in the air. The balloon ride is not included in the entrance fee.
The park also has extensive botanical gardens, many of which are their own attractions separate from the animal exhibits.
The Safari Park was a major factor in the recovery of the California Condor. Beginning in 1980, it worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Los Angeles Zoo to start a captive breeding program. The last 22 condors were taken into captivity in 1987 To breed the condors quickly, the Safari Park would remove the eggs from the nests to induce the females to lay a second egg. The removed egg hatches in an incubator and is raised with a condor handpuppet to prevent human imprinting, while the second egg is raised by its parents. Captive-bred condors were reintroduced into the wild beginning in 1992, and today their population is 369, with 191 in the wild as of March 2011.
A new exhibit complex for the Park's Sumatran tigers is planned. It will also display dholes, western tufted deer, peafowl, and reptiles such as water monitors and pythons. The tigers will have three different exhibits, and there will be a glass viewing window for visitors. After raising $19.6 million for the new exhibit ground was broken on December 12, 2012. The new exhibit will be named the Tull Family Tiger Trail after movie producer Thomas Tull and his wife. Scheduled opening is Spring 2014.
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- San Diego Union Tribune, April 13, 2010
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