The San Diego Zoo was a place we hadn’t visited in a long time, so we arranged to meet Kevin and Bailey, our son and his better half, there on Sunday, October 24, 2021. Runners, participating in the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & Half Marathon, foiled our plans.
Closed freeway exits and road closures had us driving around in circles, trying to escape the traffic. Jon and I stopped at Crest Cafe for breakfast, thinking the traffic would dissipate in about an hour. Kevin and Bailey joined us. Unfortunately, the grid lock had not abated by the time we finished our meals, so we nixed the zoo idea and crawled along for an hour or more before we could shake ourselves loose.
Jon and I went back on Tuesday, which turned out to be a very fine day indeed, to visit the zoo. We started with the shuttle to get our bearings. Note to visitors: The best seats to see the animals and take photos is on the right side of the double decker. We had snagged two seats on the left side, which wasn’t so great.
The 1915 Exposition brought more than the architectural buildings to Balboa Park. It also brought exotic animals for display during the exposition. Sadly, many of the animals were abandoned and left to the City of San Diego to care for them.
In October 1916, the Zoological Society of San Diego was born and Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth served as president until 1941. Wegeforth was instrumental in the creation of “cageless” exhibits by constructing moats instead of enclosing them with wires.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to hire a zoo director, Belle Benchley, the zoo’s bookkeeper, was named as the executive secretary with the duties of the zoo director. Later she was given the title of zoo director and served in that capacity until 1953.
The San Diego Zoo Wildlife alliance, a private nonprofit conservation organization, is now the parent organization for both the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California.
We selected Albert’s Restaurant for our lunch. The sit-down diner’s plentiful assortment of soups, salads, and entrees should satisfy most patrons. Wine, beer, and mixed drinks are also available.
After our meal, we walked around the enclosures, expecting to see more animals. We guessed most of the animals must have been inside eating their meals because there were very few out and about. Birds in the aviaries were the exception.
The zoo’s 100 acres (40 ha) house over 12,000 animals of over 650 species and subspecies. In 2018, the zoo reached over 4 million visitors.
I knew the bronze lion outside the exit gate was something special as soon as I saw it. I never guessed how special until I did a little research and found out how the lion sculpture could stand on only one paw. Rex’s Roar took two years from a sketch design to installation to create the 10-ton bronze sculpture with a stainless steel structure.
Jim Burt of Blue Rhino Studios turned a design sketched by Tim Reamer, former San Diego Zoo Global illustrator, into a 3-D model that was enlarged through a 3-D printing process. Engineered by Thornton Tomasetti and cast by Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, California, Rex stands at 27 feet tall. Craigar and Mark Grosvenor made it all happen through their donation. Watch the Making of Rex on YouTube.
We had a great day at the zoo and another visit may be in the cards the next time we’re in San Diego. Maybe we’ll be able to catch sight of the animals we missed on this visit.