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Oakland Zoo

The Oakland Zoo is located in Knowland Park in Oakland, California. Oakland Zoo opened in 1922.

The zoo is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC).


Clorox Wildlife Theatre

The wildlife theatre is the home of a range of special presentations which take place throughout the day.

Adventure Landing

Adventure landing is the home of a range of rides which visitors can enjoy such as the Serengeti Safari, Conservation Carousel, Tiger Trek coaster, Retro Racing and Bush Pilot Training.

Outback express adventure train

Enjoy a relaxing ride on this train which takes you to see the wallaroos and emus which call Australia their native home.

Sky Ride

Soaring over the zoo is the sky ride which gives you views of the tule elk and bison that cannot be seen any other way, the rest of the zoo and the Bay area skyline.

California Wilds! Playground

This expansive outdoor play space allows guests to experience five play zones inspired by the habitats of Californian animals.




United States

Year Opened


Land Size

40ha (100 acres)

Number of Animals



Oakland Zoo began life in 1922 in downtown Oakland. It was established by Henry A. Snow who was a naturalist, collector, African big game hunter, museum advocate and film producer at the time. It was later moved to Sequoia Park (Joaquin Miller Park).

In 1932 a property known as Durant Park passed into the control of the Bank of America. This became the home of the zoo in 1939 when it moved from Joaquin Miller Park. It was also at this time that the city allocated them $4800 to help care for the animals.

During 1936 a society currently known as the Conservation Society of California but originally known as the Alameda County Botanical and Zoological Society was founded to support the zoo’s work. Over time it would become further involved in operations at the zoo.

In 1948 the city, under Joseph P. Knowland, then Chairman of the California State Park Commission, purchased 453 acres (183ha) of the park at a cost of $660,000 and it was then incorporated as a State Park on 30th April 1948. During December 1949 the state of California leased the property to the city of Oakland who then sublet it to the zoological society for a 50 year period.

During 1950 the park surrounding the zoo was renamed the Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park to recognize his efforts to make this space available for recreational use.

From 1957 to 1961 William Penn Mott Jr. was general manager of the City Parks Commission and he worked to improve and develop the zoo. The first major construction in this period saw Miss Effie the elephant move to a newly built enclosure at the zoo which cost $15,000.

1965 saw a Baby Zoo open. This was managed by Lutz Ruhe.

1975 saw the City of Oakland take on control of the Knowland State Park. Negotiations then began between the City and Zoo Society . In 1982 these bore fruit when the city took on management of Park and Zoo for the next 10 years.

In 1980 the tiger exhibit was opened.

William Penn Mott Jr. then lead the zoo as it generated a masterplan built an equipped animal hospital and renovated and built a number of new exhibits from 1982 to 1983. In 1985 he passed the directorship to Joel J. Parrott, DVM who had been assistant director. He was even more aggressive in developing the zoo and over the next 20 years the whole zoo was redeveloped in 6 phases.

1987 saw the Hamadryas baboon exhibit open.

The zoo had a secure funding base in 1988 as an operational subsidy was granted by the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District. Further funding was granted through a bond issue which provided funds for capital improvements. It was also in this year that the zoo was ranked amongst the top 27% of zoos in America when the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited them. A new chimpanzee exhibit also opened.

“Mahali Pa Tempo” (“Place of the Elephant” in Swahili) the zoo’s one acre (0.4ha) elephant exhibit opened in 1989 at a cost of $820,000.

1990 saw the zoo receive more funding for capital improvement when another bond measure was passed.

December of 1991 saw the zoo’s white-handed gibbon pair moved to a spacious island where they can enjoy swinging through tall trees.

The zoo’s 1.5 acre (0.6ha) lion exhibit “Simba Pori” (“Lion Country” in Swahili) opened during 1992 as did the Flamingo plaza a spacious exhibit for this lesser flamingos and African spoonbills.

1993 saw the siamangs also moved to a spacious island.

In 1994 the zoo continued its contract with the City of Oakland so that they would manage the zoo into 2004.

The Malaysian Sun Bear Exhibit was completed in May of 1996. By December the zoo had raised the $3.9 million it needed to complete the Maddie’s Center for Science and Environmental Education. This was opened in 1999.

1998 saw the authentic African village and its eleven associated animal exhibits revealed to the public.

2000 saw the opening of a new warthog exhibit.

During 2001 a new entrance pavilion called “Karibu Village” was opened modelled on Lamu, a coastal village off the coast of Kenya. The tiger exhibit also received an extension and renovation. The squirrel monkey’s also moved to their new home in this year.

The endangered species carousel was opened as part of the rides area during 2002. The giraffe barn was also constructed at this time.

2003 saw demolition of the old children’s zoo to make way for a new one which opened in 2005. Known as the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo it features a a goat and sheep petting barn, Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room, Exhibits for tortoise, lemur, otter, alligator, fruit, bats and pigs along with interactive elements such as the lily pad walk and an amphitheatre.

During 2004 a 6.5 acre (2.63ha) extension to the African elephant exhibit was completed.

The Arroyo Viejo creek which runs through the zoo was cleaned up during 2007. This saw the banks shored up and invasive trees removed. This included a number of eucalyptus trees which were used to build 6 outdoor classrooms.

Baboon cliffs was opened during 2009. This was followed in 2010 by Wild Australia a train journey to visit the wallaroos and emus.

During 2012 Northern California’s largest wild animal veterinary facility was completed. The zoo furthered its commitment to injured wildlife in 2013 with the building of the Steve and Jackie Kane Condor Biodiversity Centre. This serves as a place where they can breed, and research the endangered California Condor. It was also in this year that the world’s first live streaming wild California condor cam was installed.

The rides area was renovated during 2014 to become “Adventure Landing.”

In 2018 the zoo opened a major expansion on previously undeveloped land known as California Trail. The exhibit is connected to the main zoo by a gondola ride and exhibits animals which are native to California such as mountain lions, eagles, California condors, bears and bison.

Main Exhibits

Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo

This interactive zone introduces kids to animals such as alligators, otters, lemurs, bats, goats and sheep in an interactive and engaging way. They have the opportunity to hop across lily pads, climb a giant spider web, pat the goats and sheep or dig to find the alligators nest.

African savannah

The African savannah introduces to some of the zoo’s most popular species such as the elephant herd, lion pride and giraffes. Also to be found here are playful green vervet monkeys and haydramas baboons alongside a selection of African reptiles.

Rain Forest

The Rain Forest habitat features naturalistic habitats for species including chimpanzees, sun bears, tigers, lar gibbons and siamangs. The latter can be viewed unobstructed across water moats. The macaws sit perched across from you with no barrier either due to training by their dedicated keepers. You can also find energetic squirrel monkeys and coatis in this area.

Flamingo Plaza

Entering the zoo you will find yourself in flamingo plaza where a flock of these brightly coloured birds can be found.

Wild Australia

Take the Outback Express Adventure Train to travel to this exhibit from downunder. Here you can see the large, flightless emu and the adorable wallaroos.

California Trail

This habitat introduces animals which are native to California. Here you can encounter mountain lions, American black bears, bald eagles, gray wolves, jaguars, grizzly bears and American bison.


Oakland Zoo Website –

Visit Oakland –

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