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San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in Escondido, California. It opened in 1964 and was originally known as the wild animal park.

The zoo is operated by San Diego Zoo Global who also operate the San Diego Zoo.

Approximately 2 million people visit the zoo each year.


Conservation Carousel

Riders can take their pick from 60 animals models which are available. These include rhino, cheetah, giraffe and zebra.

Cheetah Run

Watch the sheer speed of the cheetah as it goes from 0-70mph (0-112.5km/h) in just 4 seconds in this demonstration.

Frequent Flyers Bird Show

Watch the birds display their amazing abilities as they take to the skies above the bird show amphitheatre.

Africa Tram

Sit back on one of the park’s brightly covered trams as you are taken past some of the field habitats where the park’s largest residents reside.

Play Areas

A range of play areas are dotted around the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. These include the tiger trail play area which is themed like a logging camp, the village playground themed like an African village, the safari themed Samburu jungle gym and the Savannah Cool Zone which includes some water elements which can cool you off in the summer months.

Balloon Safari

The balloon safari allows you to rise high above the safari park tethered to a helium filled balloon.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park




United State

Year Opened


Land Size

730ha (1,800 acres)

Number of Animals


Number of Species



Ideas for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were first put forward in 1964 as a breeding facility for the larger animals from the San Diego Zoo.

Three ideas were considered as part of a financial assessment conducted during 1964. This saw a game farm, conservation farm or natural environment zoo considered. The final proposal won even though it was the most expensive.

It would take until 1969 for a site to be agreed to with the city of San Diego where the zoo could be built. They leased 1,800 acres from the city for the safari park.

During 1970 the voting public of San Diego approved a $6millon bond to allow construction of the safari park. Animals began to arrive at the site such as sable antelope, gemsbok and greater kudu and the Wgasa bushline monorail route was laid out. 10 cheetahs also arrived at the Safari Park.

When it opened the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was known as the Wild Animal Park. It was set to open on the 1st April 1972 but the opening was delayed till May 10 1972.

Elephant shows commenced at the Wild Animal Park during 1977.

The California condor breeding program at the park began in 1981. The first two condors were taken from the wild and by 1983 a chick, Sisquoc had been hatched. The last known California condor living in the wild was brought to the Wild Animal Park during 1987. Just 27 remained in the world. They would not return to the wild again until 1992 when the wild animal park released two. Another milestone was reached in 2001 with the 100th chick hatched as part of the program.

In 2003 the zoo participated in a rescue of seven African elephants from the Kingdom of Swaziland where they were in danger of a cull due to overpopulation.

The conservation carousel opened at the wild animal park during 2006.

The wgasa bushline monorail was decommissioned in 2007 and replaced with biodiesel vehicles.

In 2010 the name of the park changed from wild animal park to, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The change aimed to encourage visitors to go to both locations operated by San Diego Zoo Global (the other being the San Diego Zoo).

In May 2014, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park opened a new tiger trail habitat.

During 2018 the zoo opened Walkabout Australia. This habitat features the wildlife of Australia. In 2019 a pair of platypus were added to this exhibit. They are the only platypus found outside of Australia.

Star Animals

Birrarung and Eve

These two platypus are the only ones of their species to be seen outside of Australia in over 50 years. They were transferred to San Diego from Australia’s Taronga Zoo Sydney in October 2019.

Angalifu and Nola

This pair of northern white rhinoceros were among the last of their species on Earth. Angalifu passed away in 2014 followed by Nola in 2015 leaving just four northern white rhinos alive. This species is now likely to go extinct.

Main Exhibits

Safari Base Camp

This area is the entrance to the park. Your initial animal encounters may include flamingos, meerkats and an up-close experience in the wings of the world walk through aviary.

Condor Ridge

Condor Ridge showcases the creatures of America. The star animal here is the California condor which the zoo has been highly successful in breeding. Also on display are bald eagles, bighorn sheep, burrowing owls and more.

Tiger Trail

Showcased across three habitats are the zoo’s family of Sumatran tigers. The exhibit also features a kid’s play area and a range of interpretative displays highlighting the dangers Sumatran tigers face in the wild from poaching.

Elephant Valley

This 2.2ha (5.5 acre) exhibit is home to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s herd of African elephants. The founders of this herd were rescued from Swaziland.

African Plains

One of the largest habitats at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the African Plains. This exhibit is viewed from the trams. Popular species such as giraffe, zebra, rhino, antelope, cranes, vultures and ostrich roam the plains alongside lesser known species such as the somali wild ass and nile lechwe.

Asian Savanna

This 24ha (60 acre) habitat features Indian rhinoceros alongside Asian deer and antelopes.

African Outpost

This exhibit features plains species such as warthog, ground hornbill, cheetah, bontebok and a central island with colobus.

Lion Camp

This 0.4ha (1 acre) exhibit features an artificial kopje and a land rover upon which the lions can rest.

African Woods

African woods is the home of scrub and forest species such as okapi, secretary birds, gerenuk and Egyptian vultures.

Gorilla Forest

Featured in this habitat are the family group of mountain gorillas. Nearby is the Hidden Jungle walk in aviary which is the home of turacos, lorikeets and storks. At the entrance to the hidden jungle is an insect exhibit with spiders, scorpions, millipedes amongst other species.

Nairobi Village

This central area of the park centres around the Mombasa lagoon which features shoebill storks and pelicans. Around the edges live dik dik, duiker and red river hog. A cave features Rodrigues fruit bats. The Nairobi Nursery allows the park to raise young animals who need help.

In this area is lorikeet landing where visitors can enter the aviary as these colourful birds fly around.

It is also the location of lemur walk. This habitat allows you to enter the home of the ring-tailed lemurs to observe them going about their business.

The petting kraal allows you to pat the goats.

Walkabout Australia

This habitat showcases the wildlife of Australia including wallabies, cassowaries, tree-kangaroo, kangaroos and waterfowl.

Also in this area is the Nelson M. Millsberg Platypus Habitat where you can view the only platypus on display outside of Australia.

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