Oakland Zoo

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For the University of Pittsburgh basketball cheering section with the same name, see Oakland Zoo (cheering section).
Oakland Zoo
Oakland Zoo entrance.jpg
Main entrance
Date opened 1922
Location Oakland, California, United States
Coordinates 37°45′03″N 122°08′52″W / 37.7508°N 122.1477°W / 37.7508; -122.1477Coordinates: 37°45′03″N 122°08′52″W / 37.7508°N 122.1477°W / 37.7508; -122.1477
Land area 100 acres (40 ha)[1]
Number of animals 440 [1]
Memberships AZA[2]
Website www.oaklandzoo.org

Oakland Zoo, in the past known as the Knowland Zoo, is a 100-acre (40 ha) zoo located in southeastern Oakland, California, United States. Oakland Zoo is relatively small for a city of its size, but it contains modern exhibits. Most of its animals are kept in relatively "natural" habitats, and expanded natural habitats are planned. The Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo which opened in 2005 is a good example of the zoo's plans for the future, with interactive exhibits, state of the art animal housing facilities and children's play areas. The zoo is nationally known for its excellent elephant exhibit and has been praised for allowing their elephants to roam freely.

The beginning of the zoo[edit]

Naturalist Henry A. Snow established the Oakland Zoo in 1922 on 19th St and Harrison St in downtown Oakland. Snow Park now occupies the site of the zoo's first home. Over the years the zoo relocated several times: to Sequoia Park, Joaquin Miller Park and finally in 1939 to Durant Park. Under Joseph R. Knowland, Chairman of the California State Park Commission, California purchased the land and in 1950 renamed the park to Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park.[3] The East Bay Zoological Society (EBZS), founded in 1936 by Henry Snow's son, Sidney, has had a long relationship with the Oakland Zoo. At the time of its founding, EBZS was known as the Alameda County Botanical and Zoological Society.

Growing a zoo[edit]

Although EBZS has always been involved with zoo projects and operations to some extent, it was not until after major development of the zoo from 1958 to 1965 that the EBZS's role increased dramatically. Through their efforts, money was raised to develop the African Veldt (1965), the Australian Outback (1975) and the original tiger exhibit (1980). In 1977, the EBZS purchased the food, rides and Children's Zoo concessions.

In 1982 the EBZS entered into an agreement with the City of Oakland to manage the zoo and develop it under non-profit status. The zoo has flourished since then. In 1985, Joel Parrott, DVM, was hired as Executive Director of the Oakland Zoo. Many new exhibits have been created, including those for the hamadryas baboons and the chimpanzees. A new, spacious elephant exhibit was built in 1987. The current sun bear exhibit was finished in 1995 and was featured on Animal Planet “Ultimate Zoos.” The white-handed gibbons now live on a lush island in the heart of the Rainforest. The African Savannah, with camels, lions, elephants, meerkats, hyenas and more, was completed in 1998.

The Education Center opened its new doors in 1999 with the new main entrance followed soon after in summer 2001 (see picture). In autumn of 2001, a new squirrel monkey exhibit opened along with a larger, newly renovated tiger exhibit. In the spring of 2007, the four dromedary camels were moved to a larger, fenced enclosure uphill from their old enclosure.

Knowland Park controversy[edit]

Since 1998, the zoo has proposed several different plans to expand its operations into the neighboring Knowland Park. As of November 2014, the plans involve taking 77 acres of the city-owned park’s western ridge to build a 56-acre development with over 50 structures, including a 3-story visitor center, high-end restaurant, offices, interpretive center, paved walkways, 15-car gondola with 7 towers up to 68-feet high, and 100+ person overnight camp compound. development. The project calls for an 8-foot chain-link perimeter fence topped with 3 feet of barbed wire and expanded and paved access roads.[4]

The zoo argues that the expansion will allow them to educate visitors on the importance of environmental conservation, while the local activist group, Friends of Knowland Park, argues that the expansion will endanger the threatened ecosystems the zoo claims to want to preserve.[5]

The Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo[edit]

Summer 2005 the 3-acre (12,000 m2) Valley Children's Zoo opened with spacious new animal exhibits along with plenty of interactive play-structures for children. The ring-tailed lemurs, century old Aldabra tortoises, the interactive Goat and Sheep Contact Yard along with the river otters can be found in the Children’s Zoo. The popular American alligators, the bats, the pot-bellied pigs, the Old-World rabbits along with the Bug Room, and the Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room are also in the Children’s Zoo. One of the most interesting and popular features with the smaller children are the brass insects embedded in the concrete walkways, which were installed as a form of public art.

Teen Wild Guides[edit]

Every weekend, teen volunteers, also known as TWGs (pronounced "twigs"), come to the Children's Zoo to tell the public about the animals depending on which station they are at; Bats, Goat Barn, Gators, Bugs, Rad Room, Otters, Lemurs, and occasionally Face Painting in the Children's Zoo, or working at the Sun Bear or Chimp stations. The age range is 12½–19 years.


Just outside the zoo, there is a small playground with four structures: an elephant slide, a crawl-through hippo tunnel, a turtle that children can climb on, and a camel which children can climb on.


Today the zoo is home to over 660 native and exotic animals and is a member of the AZA. The following animals are on exhibit to the public:

  • The (*) indicates animals only viewable on sky-ride
  • The (**) indicates animals only viewable on train.


External links[edit]