The San Francisco Zoo has the distinction of being both the largest and the oldest zoo in Northern California, having opened in 1929. The zoo is situated on over 100 acres of land between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Merced, and that land houses a collection of almost 1,000 animals, including mammals, fish, insects, reptiles, and birds. At one time the zoo had a reputation for being rather inadequate and out of date, although it has enjoyed something of a facelift in recent years, with various facilities being renovated.
Like other major zoos around the world, the San Francisco Zoo has concentrated on education and conservation, instead of being just a place to see animals. Conservation issues often influence the choice of new acquisitions and the development of exhibits and the zoo has played an important part in helping to save creatures such as the wild cat and the bald eagle. The zoo has teamed up with organizations as far away as Africa and South America to help protect endangered species found there. Many of the animals at the San Francisco Zoo are part of Species Survival Plans, and the zoo's efforts can help future generations continue to enjoy these animals.
In keeping with its philosophy, some of the highlights of the zoo's 200-plus species include several rare or endangered animals from other countries. You can see such rare animals as Sumatran and Siberian tigers, Madagascar lemurs, and several endangered monkey species, which are housed in the Primate Discovery Center. Recent renovations to many of the exhibits and enclosures in the zoo have resulted in not only better conditions for these animals, but easier viewing opportunities for visitors.
Children in particular may enjoy visiting the San Francisco Zoo because of its excellent children's section. The six acre Children's Zoo features several different areas and plenty of opportunity to get close to the different animals - the Family Farm has goats, horses and sheep, while reptiles, amphibians and small mammals can be seen along the Nature Trail. Most children also enjoy visiting the sand and tunnels of the interactive and fun Meerkat and Prairie Dog Exhibit.
One of the most popular opportunities while spending a day at the zoo is watching the animals being fed. The San Francisco Zoo has plenty of opportunities to do just that. Many animals are fed in the morning and late afternoon, although there are some exceptions - each one of the Magellanic penguins are individually hand-fed around 2:30 PM, and children especially enjoy watching the animals in Family Farm being fed around 11:00 AM on a daily basis. In addition to the regular daily feeding, there are also various talks and presentations held throughout the zoo to ensure that even regular visitors find something new each visit.
The San Francisco Zoo is open every day from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and is within easy reach of downtown San Francisco by bus or streetcar. Admission costs to the zoo are on a par with other major zoos and the residents of San Francisco not only enjoy discounted admission to one of California's best zoos, but can also enjoy free admission on the first Wednesday of every month.