When I heard that the Los Angeles Zoo had finally reopened, I knew it was time for a return visit to one of my favorite local attractions. I then made advanced online reservations, which are currently required for all guests, including members.
My getaway began when me and the family walked beneath the giant, iconic metal zoo sign at Griffith Park and entered the wild wonderland.
One of the first animals that caught our eye was the meerkats, located near the entrance. These playful, foot-tall, squirrel-like creatures are members of the mongoose family and are found in arid and semi-arid regions of southern Africa. Their habitat at the zoo is made up of a complex systems of burrows with multiple levels and many entrances and exits. A mob of meerkats may construct several burrow systems scattered over many miles. These burrows are usually lined with grass and include a common latrine.
The meerkats are very outgoing and seem to enjoy posing for pictures as they stand on their hind legs on rocks or termite mounds—using their tails for stability—and scan the horizon for predators such as hawks, eagles, or jackals.
After the meerkats we hurried to see the “Chimpanzees of Mahale Mountains” exhibit. Lauded by primatologist Jane Goodall as one of the finest zoo habitats, this one-acre environment is home to a large troop of chimpanzees. When we got there, the animals were lounging on rocks, grooming themselves and climbing around.
The enclosure is designed to resemble the native environment of Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains in Africa and features mountainous rock formations, waterfalls and streams, palm trees and soft green grass. The facility also features a chimpanzee penthouse with heated bedrooms for the apes and an outdoor playground that has a jungle gym.
From the chimpanzees, we stopped at “Campo Gorilla Reserve.” Home to western lowland gorillas, the enclosure is highlighted by a forested pathway that visitors walk along to see the animals living among waterfalls and lush plants. Gorillas are the largest, most powerful of the great apes, a primate group that also includes chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans. They share about 98 percent of their DNA with humans.
The zoo’s gorilla enclosure has two separate troops of gorillas, a family and a bachelor group. The troops are led by a big silverback, who was eating a head of romaine lettuce when we got there. Glassed viewing areas and planted moats are all that separate zoo guests from the largest primate in the world.
After hanging out with the primates, we walked to see the Grevy’s zebras, the largest and most threatened of the three zebra species. The animals are wild relatives of donkeys and horses. They inhabit semi-arid and open scrub grasslands in Africa. The colorful creatures were running around in circles and eating grass when we stopped by.
From the zebras we headed to see “Elephants of Asia,” a sprawling, 6.56-acre exhibit boasting more than three acres of outdoor space, deep bathing pools, a waterfall, sandy hills, clever enrichment opportunities, and a high-tech barn capable of caring for elephants of all sizes and ages. The exhibit is so large, there are four different viewing areas to get a good look at the giant pachyderms.
The elephant enclosure features sandy hills, planted forest paths, and built-in enrichment opportunities to encourage exercise and exploration. Water features include a 20-foot waterfall, a mud wallow, two large pools deep enough to allow elephants to fully submerge, and a 16,600-square foot barn.
Other cool things to see at the zoo include alligators and crocodiles, hippos, a giant condor, tower giraffes, and Flamingo Mingle.
In other zoo news, the wildlife park is hosting its annual “Beastly Ball” fundraiser party on June 5. The event raises money and awareness for animal conservation and habitat preservation for some of the world’s most rare and vulnerable species.
This year’s event is virtual. It will be hosted by actor and comedian Joel McHale and will be filled with inspiring conservation stories; special celebrity guests; animal moments; an online auction; and musical performances by REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Slash, and more. Guests can watch the live event and/or participate in the silent auction at www.lazoo.org/beastlyball. Tax-deductible patron packages start at $1,500. Patron package donors at the $10,000 and higher level will receive a hand-delivered Zoo-themed goodie bag with Lyre’s non-alcoholic spirits, John Kelly Chocolates, and Imagery Wine Estate wines along with a multi-course meal provided by Chefs Keith Corbin and Daniel Patterson of Alta Adams, which serves a distinct interpretation of soul food that blends traditional West African food and California cuisine. To learn more, and to purchase patron packages, please visit www.lazoo.org/beastlyball.
The 133-acre Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is home to more than 1,400 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles representing more than 270 different species, of which more than 58 are endangered. In addition, the Zoo’s botanical collection comprises several planted gardens and more than 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The LA Zoo is located in Griffith Park, at the intersection of the 5 and 134 freeways. The address is 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA. 90027. Reservations are required to visit. For more information and tickets, visit: www.lazoo.org.