The San Diego Zoo was inspired by Dr. Harry Wegeforth in 1916. He established the San Diego Zoological Society to turn a childhood dream into reality. The fledgling zoo was a big success and started receiving donations immediately. The first donation was a bear named Caesar that was originally a pet on a navy ship.
In August 1921, the permanent location of the zoo was approved by the Park Commission. Zoo planners presented a landscape map along with plans of exact boundaries. It consisted of 150 acres in Balboa Park that included canyons, mesas and areas perfect for cages, dens, and corrals. In early 1922, the San Diego Zoo began to move into its new home.
In 1923, the pachyderms Empress and Queenie were brought from India by Frank Buck. The elephants didn’t like to travel and had to be ridden into their new home at the zoo.
In 1926, bus tours became popular. Off duty, the drivers studied animals on their route so they could give lectures as they drove.
The zoo is situated on 100 acres and is home to 4,000 rare and endangered animals representing more than 800 species and subspecies. A prominent botanical collection of more than 700,000 exotic plants graces the zoo grounds.