Last updated: 01:47 PM ET, Tue March 15 2016

Celebrating 100 Years of the San Diego Zoo

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | March 15, 2016

Celebrating 100 Years of the San Diego Zoo

PHOTO: San Diego Zoo (Photo courtesy of California Travel & Tourism Commission)

This is a year of celebration for the San Diego Zoo. In 1916, the zoo was founded by Harry Wegeforth, a San Diego physician. His inspiration to bring a zoo to San Diego came after hearing the roar of a lion left behind in Balboa Park after the Panama-California Exposition. He and three local colleagues founded the Zoological Society of San Diego later that year and started a revolution in animal care and conservation. Today, the zoo stands on part of the remnants from the Panama-California Exposition, which Wegeforth took over to start the zoo.

More history of the zoo’s beginning can be found at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park, which will feature The Lore Behind the Roar: 100 Years of the San Diego Zoo exhibition, opening on March 20. The exhibit gives a detailed history of the zoo and features multimedia presentations, photos and stories of how the zoo became famous for its conservation efforts as well as tales of the people and animals behind the scenes. Interactive exhibits feature a vintage zoo tour bus “ride,” living the life of a zookeeper and more.

There will also be other exhibitions within Balboa Park. Four other park institutions are collaborating with the zoo: The Timken Museum of Art will open “Bruegel,” part of a Balboa Park-wide collaborative exhibition celebrating the San Diego Zoo’s centennial, opening in September; the Museum of Photographic Art will present “Beauty and the Beast: The Animal in Photography;” the Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum will also have exhibitions.

READ MORE: San Diego, California: America’s Finest Homeport

Celebrating 100 at the Zoo

The zoo has also been spruced up for its birthday. The centennial got under way in November of last year with the launch of a special display in Centennial Plaza. There is 75-foot mural that includes photos of key events in the zoo’s history, and there is the opportunity to take your own photos and wish the zoo a “happy birthday.”

There is also a new show at the renovated Wegeforth Bowl that showcases the zoo’s history. The bowl has a new stage, a giant video screen, a shade that covers the audience area and, after the show, the opportunity for guests to join costumed characters in the plaza for a party.

In the summer, Nighttime Zoo will also feature special presentations in honor of the zoo’s centennial and there will be a procession, a new show from Dr. Zoolittle, as well as evening entertainment.

On May 14, a special event will be held in Balboa Park at Spreckels Organ Pavilion. The event will kick off the entire year of celebration in honor of the San Diego Zoo’s 100th birthday.

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