The Lore Behind the Roar! Explores Zoo's Beginnings

The Zoo began 100 years ago with just one caged lion

“Wouldn’t it be splendid if San Diego had a zoo?”

A local surgeon said these words after hearing a lion’s roar while attending the Panama-California Exhibition in Balboa Park 100 years ago.

Amazingly, the Zoo’s origins can be traced back to one caged lion at the 1915 exhibition. Since then the Zoo has grown exponentially to arguably becoming the preeminent zoo of the world. No longer on ‘exhibition,’ animals receive exceptional care from experts foremost in their field.

The Lore Behind the Roar!, a new exhibition celebrating the Zoo’s humble beginnings, opens Sunday at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park.

AB111-2 San Diego Zoo - Entrance - c. 1950
Courtesy San Diego History Center Photo Collection

The exhibition features vintage photos and interactive exhibits, including ‘riding’ a vintage tour bus and hearing stories from long-time zoo employees. Kids can even live the life of a zookeeper. The Zoo Family Den also has hands-on activities.

"Almost everyone knows about the San Diego Zoo, but hardly anyone knows it's rich history," Michael Schiff of the History Center told NBC 7. "This exhibition explains how a rag-tag collection of animals left over from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, grew to be the most recognized zoo in the world, leading the fight again extinction."

The exhibition runs March 20 through January 31, 2017.

Contact Us