Click on the images below to discover how each animal has contributed to the L.A. Zoo story in its first 50 years and is inspiring furture chapters.
No two African painted dogs are alike — each individual's fur is uniquely mottled in an earthy blend of brown, white, and tan blotches. Their coloration helps them blend into the African savanna, which is especially helpful when they are hunting. This endangered species has disappeared from 25 of the 39 countries it formerly inhabited.
Small animals can make a big impression. Elmo the three-banded armadillo and other members of the Zoo's outreach animal program offer hands-on learning experiences to guests. Fun fact: The three-banded armadillo is the only armadillo that can roll completely into a ball to protect itself from predators.
The Zoo's American black bear, 19-year-old Ranger, arrived in 1997. Orphaned as a cub in Minnesota, he'd been brought to a wildlife rehabilitation facility but was deemed non-releasable because he was too habituated to humans. Zoos often serve as a refuge for rescued animals that cannot be released back into the wild.
Chimpanzee Oliver's early days are reminiscent of a Dickens novel. Days after birth, he was temporarily removed from his mother because his failure to nurse left him dangerously malnourished. Expert staff cared for him in the Zoo's nursery. Once he was strong enough, Oliver was reunited with his mother, Julie, and slowly integrated into the chimpanzee troop. Today, he is thriving in the Zoo's multi-male, mixed-age group of eighteen.
Born on March 5, 1967, chimpanzee Pandora is the oldest animal born at the Los Angeles Zoo. Hand-reared by keepers when she was rejected by her mother, Pandora herself proved to be an attentive and loving parent. Today, she is the matriarch of a thriving troop that includes her three-year-old great-granddaughter, Uki.
Sicilian donkey Odie (a play on "Don Quixote"), was a beloved resident of Muriel's Ranch for decades. Sicilian, or miniature, donkeys stand less than 36 inches at the shoulder and are known for their friendly disposition.
One look at his spiky hairdo and it's easy to see why this drill born at the Zoo in 1992 was named for country singer Lyle Lovett! The Zoo no longer houses this species (a close relative of the more brightly colored mandrill), but has long provided financial support to conservation efforts in Nigeria. The drill is ranked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.
Billy was born in Malaysia in 1985 when elephant habitat was rapidly being destroyed to create plantations. As conflicts between farmers and elephants intensified, the Malaysian government began rounding up and translocating elephants from problem areas. The Los Angeles Zoo was the designated safe haven for Billy, who was about four years old when he arrived in January 1989. For many years, the L.A. Zoo has provided funding and other support to the Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT) in Sri Lanka, and Flora & Fauna International's Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group.
Kito (pictured with keeper Robin Noll in 1988) was a record-breaker in more ways than one. He was the oldest male Masai giraffe at any zoo when he passed away in 2005, and he was the most genetically represented member of his species in North America, having fathered 20 offspring.
The Nigerian dwarf goat's gregarious nature and small stature (standing only about two feet tall at the shoulders) makes these Muriel's Ranch residents extremely popular with our younger guests. These kids were born in May 2016.
Forty-year-old Evelyn was the second gorilla born at the Los Angeles Zoo. Charismatic and intelligent, she loves the spotlight. Her penchant for people watching makes her popular with Zoo guests.
The Grevy's zebra is one of the most endangered wild equid (horse) species, with fewer than 2,500 surviving in the wilds of Ethiopia and Kenya. The Los Angeles Zoo participates in a Species Survival Plan, working with other institutions to help these zebras in zoos and the wild. Members of our staff have traveled to Kenya to assist with Grevy's zebra field research projects.
Blind due to injuries sustained in the wild, harbor seal Alfred arrived as a rescue from New Jersey's Marine Mammal Stranding Center in 2007. With special training from his keepers, Alfred adapted to his new surroundings, and, three years later, he fathered a pup.
The first hippo born at the Zoo in 26 years, Rosie arrived on Halloween 2014. Her surprise birth (mother Mara was on birth control) and utter adorableness combined to make Rosie a media sensation. Guests at the Zoo's Hippo Encounter Tour can go behind the scenes with Rosie for an informative, up-close experience.
Since his arrival in 2005, jaguar Kaloa has impressed his keepers with his intelligence and easygoing nature. With financial support from the L.A. Zoo, conservation organization Paso Pacifico is working to study and preserve this declining species in parts of its range.
The largest wild canine on the South American continent, the maned wolf's most distinctive features are its long, spindly legs, which have earned it the nickname "fox on stilts." The first wild-born pair of maned wolves brought into the United States arrived at the L.A. Zoo in 1965. We are a longstanding participant in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the species.
Bornean orangutan Minyak came to the L.A. Zoo from Georgia's Yerkes Primate Center in 2002 because it was believed the drier California climate might improve his health — he had suffered from a chronic respiratory illness since infancy. After a groundbreaking 2003 surgery to remove the infection-prone air sac in his throat, Minyak went on to father two females, Berani and Elka.
These wild cousins of the pig hail from South America's hot and thorny Gran Chaco; the harshness of their habitat earned them the nickname "pigs from green hell." The L.A. Zoo has been involved in the conservation of the Chacoan peccary since 2001, through funding, field assistance, and building an extremely successful breeding program. These babies (pictured) were born in February 2016.
One of the oddest looking creatures to ever inhabit the Zoo, pied tamarin Dylan arrived on loan in 2006 and briefly shared an exhibit with an emperor tamarin named Little Italy. This critically endangered primate inhabits a very limited range in Brazil.
Born in the Alaskan wilderness, Sweetheart and her twin Bruno arrived as orphans at the Zoo in 1967, after their mother was killed by hunters. When she died at age 36 in 2003, Sweetheart was one of the oldest polar bears in the U.S. In the wild, polar bears live an average of 15 to 18 years.
This Madagascar native is distinguished from other types of lemur by its mode of locomotion: the sifaka (pronounced "she-FAHK") maintains a vertical posture as it leaps between trees or bounces on the ground. The Zoo has had much success in breeding this endangered primate.
His heavy-duty sleep schedule (sloths snooze up to 20 hours per day!) leaves Charlie the Linne's two-toed sloth little time for anything else — but last year he squeezed a little fun into his schedule, snapping selfies for a partnership between the Zoo and Google Photos (#ZooglePhotos). As with all rainforest animals, the sloth's habitat is threatened by logging and human development. (Photo courtesy of Google)
Though his stay here was relatively short-lived, Sumatran rhino Andalas remains one of the most memorable and historic residents in the L.A. Zoo's history. The first Sumatran rhino born in a zoo in more than 100 years, Andalas' birth gave hope that his critically endangered species could be saved through captive propagation. He was two years old when he arrived at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2003. Four years later, he was transferred to his ancestral home in Sumatra, where he has since sired two calves.
Prior to their December 2015 arrival at the Los Angeles Zoo, three-year-old brothers Mutiny and Moloch lived in a wild animal reserve in Tasmania. One of only six U.S. zoos to house Tasmanian devils, the L.A. Zoo has partnered with Save the Tasmanian Devil Program to increase awareness of their conservation needs.
The Los Angeles Zoo began working with uakaris in the mid-1960s and is currently the only zoological institution outside of South America to exhibit this unique species. The Zoo has funded studies of uakari diet, distribution, and genetic variation, and has sent staff to Peru to work alongside scientists studying the species in the wild.
Murray the southern hairy-nosed wombat arrived at the L.A. Zoo in January 2013. Few zoos in the U.S. house these this unusual Australian species, whose existence in the wild is threatened by habitat loss. Animal Keeper Damian Lechner traveled to Australia to assist with wombat research and has applied what he learned to working with our resident wombats (which now include a female, Olga, who arrived earlier this year).
Discovered as a hatchling at a Pacoima construction site, this two-headed San Diego gopher snake was brought to the Zoo in 1973. Named Reginald and Llewellyn (R for right; L for left), the snake had two distinct head and neck regions but shared a body and vital organs. Two-headed snakes rarely survive long in the wild, but Reginald and Llewellyn lived more than 10 years.
A popular resident of the LAIR, the Fiji Island iguana is an arboreal lizard distinguished by its vivid emerald and turquoise coloring and cream-colored bands. The Zoo recently providing funding to International Iguana Foundation to conduct iguana surveys on two Fijian islands and to support conservation of this endangered species.
This Fly River turtle's protruding snout functions like a snorkel, allowing it to hide underwater and still breathe. The Zoo's Fly River turtles were confiscated by the US. Fish & Wildlife Service from a gentleman who attempted to smuggle them into the country in his pockets. This protected species is native to New Guinea and Australia.
Among the Zoo's most celebrated reptilian residents was a female Indian python named Baby. The 15-foot snake was weighed and measured once a year, a task requiring the assistance of several staff and volunteers. Baby passed away in February 2005 at the ripe old age of 22.
Tomistoma (from the Greek for "sharp mouth") is a freshwater crocodilian native to southeast Asia, where populations are fragmented and under threat from habitat loss. Among its ongoing efforts to help conserve this species, the L.A. Zoo has funded tomistoma conservation workshops and field surveys in Indonesia.
This beautiful, critically endangered tortoise gets its name from the yellow lines that seem to radiate down the plates of its shell. For many years, the L.A. Zoo has contributed to conservation projects for the species through the Turtle Survival Alliance, with recent funding going to rehabilitate confiscated tortoises and repatriate them to the wild.
Andean condor Leadbottom hatched at the Zoo in June 1983 and had to be hand-raised because he kept falling out of his nest — hence his name. After starring in the World of Birds show for many years, Leadbottom developed some health issues and was retired to his current exhibit in the South America section.
The only bird endemic to Bali, the Bali mynah (or Bali starling) is critically endangered, primarily due to poaching for the cagebird trade. Animal Keeper Lori Rogalski, who cares for these rare birds at the Zoo, traveled to Bali in 2016 to assist with conservation efforts and learn techniques for breeding the species.
Topatopa came to the Zoo in 1967 as a malnourished fledgling rescued from the wild. Now 50 years old, he has sired 34 chicks and counting — bolstering the population of a species that was once on the brink of extinction.
Often called the "dinosaur bird," the double-wattled cassowary is a large flightless species native to Australia and New Guinea. The Zoo's female cassowary, a five-foot-tall beauty named Slim, is a sight to behold, from the casque atop her blue head to the razor-sharp claws on her middle toes.
Two types of flamingo currently call the L.A. Zoo home: Chilean (pictured) and greater. Since 2009, the L.A. Zoo has supported efforts to monitor populations of Caribbean flamingos in Yucatan, Mexico, and to rehabilitate habitats the flamingos once occupied. Zoo funds have been used to purchase binoculars, leg bands, and other field equipment, and to pay wardens to protect nesting flamingos.
The critically endangered Iranian harlequin newt is found only in the mountains of southern Iran. Due to its tiny range, habitat loss, and collection for the pet trade, this beautiful amphibian is on its way to extinction in the wild. The Zoo has exhibited this species since 2012, and we celebrated our first breeding success in 2014.
One of the Zoo's original elephants, Gita was transferred from the old Griffith Park Zoo when it closed in 1966. For the next 40 years, her sweet disposition made her a favorite among guests and staff. She had no bigger fan than actress Betty White, who accompanied Gita and her keeper on countless early-morning walks on zoo grounds. "Gita was forty-eight years old when she left us, but she will stay in our hearts forever," Betty wrote in 2011. "Yes, Gita, dear, you are still my very favorite of all."