The San Diego Zoo is a zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, housing over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. Its parent organization, San Diego Zoo Global, is one of the largest[better source needed] zoological membership associations in the world, with more than 250,000 member households and 130,000 child memberships, representing more than a half million people. The San Diego Zoo was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats. It is one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the giant panda. In 2013, the zoo added a new Koalafornia Adventure exhibit, providing an updated Australian animal experience. Another new exhibit, called Africa Rocks, opened in 2017.
The zoo offers a guided tour bus that traverses 75% of the park. There is an overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, providing an aerial view of the zoo. The Skyfari was built in 1969 by the Von Roll tramway company of Bern, Switzerland. The San Diego Zoo Skyfari is a Von Roll type 101.
It is privately moderated by the nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego on 100 acres (40 ha) of Balboa Park leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals, equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and a member of the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). San Diego Zoo Global also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.
The San Diego Zoo also operates the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which displays animals in a more expansive setting than at the zoo. Animals are regularly exchanged between the two locations, as well as between San Diego Zoo and other zoos around the world, usually in accordance with Species Survival Plan recommendations.
Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. The same exhibit features many different animals that can be found side-by-side in the wild, along with native plant life. Exhibits range from an African rain forest (featuring gorillas) to the Arctic taiga and tundra in the summertime (featuring polar bears). Some of the largest free-flight aviaries in existence are here. Many exhibits are “natural” with invisible wires and darkened blinds (to view birds), and pools and open-air moats (for large mammals).
The temperate, sunny maritime climate is well suited to many plants and animals. Besides an extensive collection of birds, reptiles, and mammals, it also maintains its grounds as an arboretum, with a rare plant collection. The botanical collection includes more than 700,000 exotic plants. As part of its gardening effort, it raises some rare animal foods. For example, the zoo raises 40 varieties of bamboo for the pandas on long-term loan from China, and it maintains 18 varieties of eucalyptus trees to feed its koalas.
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