Just by visiting the L.A. Zoo, you’re supporting efforts to save endangered and threatened species around the globe. Fact is, your hometown zoo is a conservation leader that commits expertise, technology, and funds to help save animals every day – animals like the ones listed here. As you enjoy this tour, please know that your contribution to this important work is greatly appreciated. We also invite you to take the time to think about additional ways you can help wildlife and the planet.
All classifications are according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
With all the attention that large, popular mammals like lions, giraffes, elephants, and gorillas get, it’s sometimes easy to forget that nearly 100 mammal species call the L.A. Zoo home. Here’s a tour of less obvious yet equally captivating choices that you’ll want to add to your list of must-see mammals.
With large soulful eyes, a penchant for taking it slow, and a love of roses, perhaps you’ve just found your Valentine’s Day mascot. (NOTE: Sloths don’t give roses, of course. They eat them.)
Belonging to the genus of squirrels – Callosciurus – collectively known as the "beautiful squirrels,” this beauty is one of the most colorful mammals in the world, an eye-catching mix of black, reddish-orange, and white.
Not only is this South American rodent super-adorable – picture a guinea pig with a more distinctive nose and longer legs – it also possesses a super talent, as the only animal known to be able to crack open the husk of a Brazil nut.
Also known as the dwarf leopard, this compact feline sports beautifully intricate markings, which wildlife author and Boy Scouts co-founder Ernest Thompson Seton described as “the most wonderful tangle of stripes, bars, chains, spots, dots, and smudges” looking as though "they were put on as the animal ran by."
For a testament to this animal’s beauty, look to no lesser authority than famed naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin, who called the mandrill "the most vividly colored specimen in mammaldom." 'Nuff said.
This striking, highly social primate with a narrow, fox-like face and dense fur hails from Madagascar, where it lives in female-dominated groups of up to 30 individuals.
If you can, catch a glimpse of this elegant desert dweller – the world’s fastest living hoofed mammal and the second-fastest land mammal, able to cruise at 40 to 60 miles per hour for one hour or more. (Cheetahs run up to 70 mph, but only for short bursts.)
Talk about undercover! The Chacoan peccary was first identified through fossil data in 1930 and thought to be extinct until 1971, when it was discovered alive, well, and incredibly cute in the Chaco region of Argentina.
Able to glide gracefully through rough terrain – jumping up to 12 feet from rock to rock – this Australian cutie moves awkwardly on flat surfaces, which makes us love it even more.
You’re really going to dig this adorably stocky marsupial whose build and claws are adapted for prodigious digging.
This tour of the Zoo will transport you into Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories as you encounter animals made famous by this beloved collection and the movies it inspired.
We dare you to spend some time staring at the green tree python in the LAIR to see if this mesmerizingly bright snake has the power to hypnotize. Our guess? Yessssssssss, it doessssssss.
Destruction of natural habitats like the jungle described by Kipling is a primary threat to Asian elephants in the wild. Learn about this and other dangers and what you can do to help at the Elephants of Asia exhibit.
Like the troop of Old World primates that attempts to abduct Mowgli in the story, mandrills live in large groups ranging from 20 to as many as 200 and divide their time between traveling along the rainforest floor and swinging and sleeping among high tree branches. They can also be very mischievous.
Though they don’t sing like Baloo in the movies, American black bears like our Ranger are highly vocal, using up to 20 different sounds in a variety of contexts.
While the Jungle Book baddy was a Bengal tiger, our tigers are Sumatran, but no less powerful and captivating.
Unlike the Indian wolves that raised Mowgli in the story, maned wolves – which are native to South America – are solitary and do not form packs. Maned wolf pups rely on their parents for food for up to one year.
Black panthers in Asia and Africa, like Bagheera, are actually leopards, while black panthers in the Americas are jaguars, like the sleek, spotted residents of our Rainforest of the Americas. They’re all cousins within the Panthera genus of felines.
The Zoo is a multi-sensory experience – with plenty of wonderful things to see, hear, feel, smell, and, yes, taste. That’s why we're serving up this food-lover’s guide. Bon appetite!
Named for its famous neighbor – Reggie the American alligator – this café has achieved renown of its own for gourmet hamburgers, our favorite being the Beastly Burger with Havarti and arugula. There’s a lot here for vegetarians to love, too, with hearty grilled Portobello mushrooms, black bean burgers, and a seasonal salad that includes shaved veggies like beets and fennel plus a sprinkling of nuts and fruit. Everything on the chef-created menu pairs well with the red and white wines available by the glass from Napa Valley vintner Hess.
While a giant bag of kettle corn can fuel an entire day's trek around the Zoo, be sure to save a few handfuls for a moment of rest at Mahale Café, which is named after mountains and a national park on the shore of Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika famous for its chimpanzees. Grab a locally brewed I.P.A. (India pale ale) – which pairs exceptionally well with lightly sweet and salty kettle corn – from among the craft beers on tap and enjoy the pairing on the café terrace, where you’ll see and hear chimpanzees, lions, and giraffes.
One theory on the history of the churro holds that this fried treat was brought to Europe from China by Portuguese traders, then popularized in Spain before making its way to Mexico and the US, where it has become an iconic favorite. With a perfectly crunchy exterior and a spongy, steamy inside, the Zoo's churros are a must. In honor of the churro’s origin, follow your worldly snack with a peek at the giant Chinese salamander in the nearby LAIR or stroll up the road to see the peninsular pronghorn from Baja California.
Being in L.A., authentic Mexican food is essential. Café Pico offers handmade street tacos, tortas, salsas, agua frescas, and more. Enjoy your home-style comida in the lush outdoor seating area, then check out a nearby Mexican native, the Baird’s tapir.