In 1966, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens opened in the heart of the city to help bring the wild to those living in this area. Since that time, the facility has grown to include hundreds of animals, as well as unique plant life from around the world. Today, it is run by its own department within the City Council, called the greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, which deals with organizing the workforce at the zoo, fundraising, providing zoo publications, and more.
While the animals are a huge attraction to the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the gardens themselves showcase an impressive collection of trees, flowers, cacti, and other plants from around the world. The landscaping of the zoo itself was meant to help provide food for the animals and to show visitors the natural habitats for these animals. In 2003, the zoo was accredited with the American Association of Museums for the vast plants they included as their live museum. These are over 7000 plants in the zoo, representing over 800 different species. It takes 16 full-time gardeners and a number of part-time employees and volunteers to care for the plants found in the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The facility also serves as one of the country's Plant Rescue Centers, providing temporary care for rare plants that were rescued after people attempted to smuggle them into the country.
The Children's Zoo area is home to a number of species that can be petted and fed by younger visitors in some cases and which provide other interactive opportunities. Such animals in this exhibit include dairy goats, sheep, ocelots, pelicans, and porcupines.
The animals featured at the zoo's entrance are the harbor seal and the American alligator. Other animals that are part of the main zoo include meerkats, flamingos, sea lions, koalas, African wild dogs, zebra, gorillas, giraffes, lions, elephants, ostriches, eagles, tigers, hippos, spider monkeys, aldabra giant tortoises, tapirs, vultures, snow leopards, black bears, and rhinos. They also have an aviary, which is home to animals such as the plush-crested jay, the sacred ibis, the West African crowned crane, and the Inca tern.
There are a number of places to eat while visiting Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The Safari Cafy is a gourmet coffee shop with snakes and both indoor and outdoor seating. La Casita has Mexican food, while the Gorilla Grill, Silverback Cafy, Mahale Cafy, and Zoo Grill feature casual dining. There are also two shopping centers located in the zoo so that visitors can go home with zoo memorabilia, educational toys, or even African crafts.
Admission prices to the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens range from $6 to $12, depending on the age of the visitor and the size of the group. Parking at the zoo is free. They also have joint tickets with the city's Aquarium of the Pacific so guests can visit both sites for a single, lower price. The zoo is open daily until 5:00 PM, with ticket stands closing at 4:00 PM.