Zoological Society of San Diego

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The Zoological Society of San Diego is a non-profit organization that operates the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the Institute for Conservation Research. It was founded in 1916 under the leadership of Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth.

The Zoological Society of San Diego claims the largest zoological society membership in the world, with more than 250,000 member households and 130,000 child memberships, representing more than a half million people. Society members enjoy free admission to the Zoo and the Safari Park, a subscription to the monthly magazine ZOONOOZ, and other benefits depending on their level of membership.[1]

As of 2011 the Zoological Society of San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research all operate under an umbrella organization called San Diego Zoo Global.[2]


Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth founded the Zoological Society of San Diego, meeting October 2, 1916, and initially following precedents set by the New York Zoological Society at the Bronx Zoo. He gathered several like-minded men: his brother Paul Wegeforth, several other physicians including local physician Fred Baker and Navy surgeon Joseph Thompson, and naturalist Frank Stephens, who was associated with the San Diego Society of Natural History (later the San Diego Natural History Museum). They became the founding directors of the Zoological Society of San Diego, with Wegeforth serving as its founding president.[3]


The Society receives a four-star or "highly rated" evaluation from the Charity Navigator website,[4] which reports that the Society spends 90.2% of its funds on operating its programs, 7.7% on administrative expenses, and 2.0% on fundraising.

In 2000, the Society received a grant of $7.5m from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The grant helped to fund the construction of the Institute for Conservation Research (formerly the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Species).[5] The center is next to the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center which is located at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.[6]

In 2004 the Society received its largest ever individual donation, of $10m, from the estate of McDonald's heiress Joan Kroc.[7]

In 2009 the Zoological Society was named a "Rising Star in the field of Plant & Animal Science" by Thomson Reuters.[8]


  1. ^ Zoological Society of San Diego website
  2. ^ San Diego Zoo Global
  3. ^ Marjorie Betts Shaw, "The San Diego Zoological Garden: A Foundation to Build On", in The Journal of San Diego History, Volume 24, Number 3, Summer 1978.
  4. ^ Charity Navigator rating
  5. ^ San Diego Zoo announcement
  6. ^ "Zoological Society of San Diego Receives $7.5 Million Grant. - Free Online Library". Thefreelibrary.com. 2000-05-01. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  7. ^ "Zoo Group Gets $10-Million Kroc Gift - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. 2004-04-10. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  8. ^ "Zoological Society of San Diego, (Part 1)". ScienceWatch.com. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 

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