(Last UPDATED 10/18/2018) The Sacramento Zoo, located within William Land Park, celebrated its 90th Birthday in 2017! The 14.3 acre Zoo is currently home to more than 500 native, rare and endangered animals representing more than 120 unique species.
The Zoo is run by the nonprofit Sacramento Zoological Society, and is accredited by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Zoo officials are committed to both providing educational opportunities for the public and the conservation of species.
The Zoo opened in June 1927 on a 4-acre site with animals that had previously been exhibited at local parks. I have heard that at one point a long time ago that McKinley Park had alligators on display – which makes me wonder if they were among the animals transferred to the city-owned (then named) William Land Park Zoo.
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A friend and I recently visited the Zoo on a weekday morning. As we approached the Zoo I commented that I had recently learned that the building entrance design is classified as midcentury-modern – a term I had not previously been familiar with. Simple, clean lines are a hallmark of midcentury-modern.
The Zoo entrance is sporting a new logo – giraffe mother and son – Shani and Rocket. Rocket celebrated his first birthday earlier this year on April 10.
We arrived not long after the Zoo opened and as a result we were able to park relatively near the entrance. The Zoo has no parking lot – just street parking – so on weekends especially parking can be a bit difficult. William Land Park, a very popular park, is also home to Fairytale Town, Funderland Amusement Park, and the nine-hole William Land Golf Course.
It had been a long-long time since I had last visited the Zoo, and while much was familiar I also noticed quite a few improvements. The Zoo is small, but that can also be considered an advantage. It is perfect for families with small children and attendees who want to experience what the Zoo has to offer – and not make a huge time commitment.
With children in tow who want to ride the Zoo train or carousel, try out the climbing wall, or play in the playground it could take much longer to see everything – but otherwise about 1 ½ hours seems about right to me.
It was a beautiful day and it was fun to wander around the Zoo at our own pace checking out what interested us. The Zoo is clean, the staff is friendly, and there is ample shade and seating.
We knew that many of the animals are more active in the morning but, as is to be expected, not all of the species were. For example, we checked on the Anteater enclosure several times, including one last time right before we left, but he was nowhere to be seen.
On the other hand, the Lemurs were inside napping when we made our first go around, but we saw them up close right before we left the premises.
Our first stop was the Reptile House. Completed in 1970, the building is really showing its age.
We made a point to make our way to the veterinary hospital at 10:30 a.m. to view the newly hatched American flamingo chicks. The chicks were hatched between June 28 and July 30. Wow – what a difference a few weeks can make! The first hatched chick, placed in his/her separate wading pool, was substantially larger than the others who had hatched later and were closer in age.
The hatching of the six chicks is a really big deal for the Zoo. These were the first flamingo chicks successfully hatched at the Zoo since 1999. Zoo staff made a point of saying that no one can pinpoint why this year was different than previous years. Prior to the hatching of these six chicks the Zoo, which has housed flamingos since 1966, successfully hatched 36 flamingos.
I was amazed to learn that one of the original eight flamingos that arrived in 1966 was still part of the flock!
(UPDATED 10/27/2017) One of the six chicks hatched, Bellini, died last month when food got lodged in her airways. The third oldest, but smallest of the chicks, was still receiving supplemental feedings unlike the other chicks. The five surviving flamingo chicks – Tiki (male) , Mai Tai (female), Daiquiri (male), Blue Hawaiian (male) and Margarita (female)- are now all between 6.23 pounds and 7.98 pounds – and it will be a while before they are sent out to join the other 36 flamingos. The chicks will not turn fully pink until they are about two years old.
(UPDATED 5/18/18) The five young flamingos have joined the adult flock on the lake. Their gray feathers are now mixed with pink – so it is easy to pick them out – for now! Each sports a yellow numbered band: Tiki – #69 (right leg); Blue Hawaiian – #74 (right leg); Margarita – #75 (left leg); Daquari – #72 (right leg); and, Mai Tai – #71 (left leg).
Although I had made notes in advance as to the times of various Zoo staff “chats” about the animals in their care, and the morning Wildlife Stage Show, we only went out of our way to see the flamingo chicks.
While we were viewing the lions we saw the UC Davis veterinary student that is investigating the behavioral effects of music on lions. She was observing the lions as she played music specially composed for the hearing range of cats. If it turns out that the Zoo’s lions do in fact react positively, the playing of this special music could potentially be added to the Zoo’s animal enrichment program.
The Giraffe Viewing Deck was a very popular spot as it enables those viewing the giraffes to be at more or less the same level and more easily observe these beautiful animals.
As we made our way around the Zoo we were not only viewing the animals on exhibit, but also the collection of wildlife art donated to the Zoo. Next time you go to the Zoo you may want to go online and print out the “Art Map” which shows the locations of each work of art, its title and the name of the artist. There are 28 works of art in all.
See related post: Sacramento Zoo – Wildlife Art
After my friend and I agreed that we had visited every exhibit, our last stop was at the Gift Store near the Entrance/Exit. We both commented on the fact that not being accompanied by children was a real plus – otherwise there is no way we could have walked out of there without buying something!
(UPDATED 10/21/17) The Sacramento Zoo was voted #1 in the Sacramento Magazine 2017 Best of Sacramento survey for Place to Take the Kids (non-restaurant)
Sacramento Zoo Re-Imagined (Updated 10/18/2018)
It appears that plans to makeover the Sacramento Zoo in phases over the next 15 to 20 years have changed. In June, 2017 it had been announced that a Master Plan for the Zoo was under development and that when it was completed the Master Plan would be presented to the City of Sacramento for approval. The first phase of the $75 million Master Plan called for the building of a Biodiversity Center on the current day site of the Reptile House, and future projects would have included state-of-the-art exhibits and new guest amenities. The renovation would also have included an emphasis on smaller animals as the zoo is land-locked with no room for expansion.
The Sacramento Zoo now has a new director – and the vision has changed. The leadership of the Sacramento Zoo is now exploring moving the zoo from its Land Park home to more expansive quarters elsewhere in the City. At the heart of the issue – the ability of the Sacramento Zoo to house and breed larger species and to meet increasingly strict standards to remain accredited as a zoological facility. Note: The Sacramento Zoo is one of only 230 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
For now there are no concrete plans – so stay tuned.
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When was the last time you visited the Sacramento Zoo? Any other comments or observations?
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