Posted in East Oakland, Elmhurst, History, Parks, Uncategorized

Oakland Zoo in Knowland Park

  • Open Daily: Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday, Sunday, Select Holidays: 10:00am – 4:00pm
  • Address: 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, CA 94605

Covid-19

In accordance with Alameda County’s order for residents to ‘shelter in place’ for the well-being of public and staff related to COVID-19 precautionary measures, Oakland Zoo will be closed Tuesday, March 17 and remain closed until the order is lifted.

Oakland Zoo Closed — Effective Tuesday, March 17

We need your support more now than ever to care for the animals you know and love. Please help sustain Oakland Zoo – your Zoo – during this difficult time.

The Oakland Zoo Animal Care Fund

Oakland Accepts Zoo

Henry A. Snow, a naturalist, collector, and African big game hunter, established the Oakland Zoo in downtown Oakland. The first Zoo was located at 19th and Harrison. The area is now known as Snow Park.

In February of 1923, the city of Oakland accepted Snow’s collection of wild animals. The collection was valued from $30,000 to $80,000.

“On behalf of the city of Oakland, we are delighted to accept this valuable collection.”

Oakland Tribune Feb 1923

Two lion cubs and a boa-constrictor formed the nucleus, with various monkeys, bobcats, a cinnamon bear, a mountain lion, and a badger completed the menagerie.

We’ve Moved!

After many complaints were filed with the city council and the park board from the neighborhood residents around the Zoo, who said the collection of animals were a nuisance.

Oakland Tribune 1925

The new location was in Sequoia Mountain Park (now a part of Joaquin Miller Park.)

In 1926 Henry Snow had a stroke and died in July of 1927. Snow’s son Sidney Snow continued in father’s footsteps.

In 1936, Snow established the nonprofit organization East Bay Zoological Society, which was incorporated as the  Alameda County Botanical and Zoological Society. 

The new Society was seeking to move the animals to the 500-acre Durant Park.

Durant Park

In 1939 the Zoo moved from Joaquin Miller Park to Durant Park.

Miss Effie with Sidney Snow, March 1952
© Oakland Tribune (archives)

Durant Park was once the home to R.C. Durant, the President of Durant Motors. Before that, the land from owned by F.C. Talbot. The park is located at the top of 98th Avenue.

Rosebud Dancing to Shake, Rattle and Roll 1955
Sid Snow with Baby Tigers circa 1950
Oakland Tribune May 22, 1950

Knowland State Arboretum and Park and Zoo

Visitors enter the Oakland Zoo in Knowland Park through the landscape of the Historical Park and Arboretum. The trees throughout this area are the remnants of the Frederick Talbot estate (see Edenvale.)

Trees in the Meadow – Knowland Park 1937

A row of Canary Island Palm marks the park entry. There are Mexican Fan Palms, Chilean Palms, and exotic Bunya Bunya Trees from Australia in the meadow and picnic grounds. These trees were all planted early part of the 1900s.

Knowland Park consists of approximately 443 acres, of which 350 acres are in the undeveloped Upper Knowland Park. The Zoo (in 1996) had 56 acres within the Historical Park, and 37 acres are in the Zoological Park.

Oakland Tribune 1948

Under a contract with the City of Oakland, the East Bay Zoological Society (EBZS) has full responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and development of the 37-acre Zoo and the 443 acres of Knowland Park.

Improvements 1957-1966

Miss Effie – new home

The first significant addition was the construction enclosure for Miss Effie, the elephant, at the cost of $15,000. The move from the lower park to the upper area began. Video of Miss Effie in 1965 can be seen here: website

There was a 60-foot cylindrical gibbon tower at the entrance to the Zoo. The baby zoo was located in the lower area of the new Zoo.

Oakland Zoo 1963

“The Zoo, when completed, will be the most modern and beautiful one in the country.”

Oakland Tribune 1960
Oakland Tribune 1964

By 1967 the Zoo had relocated entirely to a canyon rising to a mountain overlooking the entire East Bay Area.

The Skyline Daylight a miniature train complete with a “Vista Dome” coach.

Oakland Zoo Circa 1968

The Baby Zoo was completed in 1965 and totally rebuilt in 2005.

Oakland Tribune 1965

When completed, the Zoo would be 100 acres.

Sidney Snow Dies

SF Examiner August 38, 1959

People Came to See

Zoo Under Fire

In 1983 the Zoo was listed as number six of the “The 10 ‘worst’ zoos.’

The Humane Society of the United States said the conditions at the Zoo were so adverse that the elephants might be better off “serving five to ten years in Leavenworth.”

SF Examiner 1983

The Zoo was “a random collection of animals maintained in amateurish fashion and failed to meet even one criterion of an acceptable zoological garden.

They called the Zoo “concrete oasis.”

SF Examiner 1983

The report noted that there were no signs of cruelty to the animals, and they were generally healthy.

The Zoo’s response was, “it will be a first-class zoo in a few years.”

Since 1988, Oakland Zoo has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.

New and Improved Zoo

Dr. Joel Parrott – 1983
Oakland Zoo – Youtube Page

In his tenure, Dr. Parrott has turned the Zoo entirely around, making it one of the best in the country.

African Savanna

Many new exhibits have been created, including those for the hamadryas baboons and the chimpanzees. A new, spacious elephant exhibit was built in 1987.

The current sun bear exhibit was finished in 1995 and was featured on Animal Planet “Ultimate Zoos.” The white-handed gibbons now live on a lush island in the heart of the Rainforest. The African Savannah, with camels, lions, elephants, meerkats, hyenas and more, was completed in 1998.

The Zoo Today

In the summer of 2005 the 3-acre Valley Children’s Zoo opened with spacious new animal exhibits along with plenty of interactive play-structures for children. The ring-tailed lemurs, century old Aldabra tortoises, the interactive Goat and Sheep Contact Yard along with the river otters can be found in the Children’s Zoo. The popular American alligators, the bats, the pot-bellied pigs, the Old-World rabbits along with the Bug Room, and the Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room are also in the Children’s Zoo. 

June 20, 2018 – Almost three years since breaking ground and more than two decades in the making, Oakland Zoo’s highly anticipated California Trail opens. The expansion more than doubles the Zoo’s current size from 45 acres to 100 acres.

Zoo Map – Website
The Zoo is home to two sets of brother grizzly bears, also known as brown bears. At Oakland Zoo the bears are given a wide variety of enrichment, as well as choice. Grizzly Bear Cams

The California Trail also includes the interactive California Conservation Habitarium, Conservation Action Tent, California Wilds! Playground based on California’s diverse eco-zones, and Clorox Overnight Experience ‘safari-style’ campground.

5 Fascinating Facts about the Oakland Zoo Gondola
Oakland Zoo
October 18, 2018
3-story Kaiser Permanente Visitor Center, which houses The Landing Café.
Ring-Tailed Lemur
Children’s Zoo
Our Bats Are Hungry For a Bite…of FRUIT!
Oakland Zoo

November 1, 2019
Enjoy the Sun Bears at Oakland Zoo

Timeline of the Zoo

  •  1936– Snow established the nonprofit organization East Bay Zoological Society, which was incorporated as the  Alameda County Botanical and Zoological Society. 
  • 1939-moved from Joaquin Miller Park to Durant Park.
  • 1948 – Became a State Park
  • 1949: State Park property is leased to the City of Oakland for 50 years, and the City of Oakland subleased the zoo property to the East Bay Zoological Society.
  • 1950: -The zoo property changed its name Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park.
  • 1964 –City Parks Dept and Society run zoo
  • 1965 – The baby Zoo opened
  • 1975 Knowland State Park was conveyed to the City of Oakland
  • 1982 –East Bay Zoological Society took over the maintenance, operation, and development of the city-run Zoo. The 10-year lease agreement saved the city almost $315,880 a year. The Society signed a ten-year contract.
  • 1985 – Joel Parrott was appointed the Executive Director. A 20-year renovation plan was put in place,
  • 1994- Renews 10-year lease.

Timeline of Major Developments

  • Hamadryas Baboon Exhibit 1982
  • Chimpanzee Exhibit – 1988
  • African Elephant Exhibit – 1989
  • African Lion Exhibit – 1992
  • Siamang Island Exhibit – 1993
  • Malayan Sun Bear Exhibit – 1996
  • African Savanna – 1998
  • Maddie’s Center – 1999
  • Warthog Exhibit -2000
  • Mahali Pa Tembo – Elephant Exhibit 2004
  • Wayne & Gladys Valley Children Zoo Opened 2005
  • Baboon Cliffs – 2009
  • Wild Australia – 20110
  • Veterinary Hospital – 2012

More Info:

The East Bay Zoological Society has operated and managed the Zoo for the City of Oakland from 1982 until August 2017, when it was renamed the Conservation Society of California to reflect better Zoo’s evolving purpose mission in its commitment to conservation.

  • Open Daily: Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday, Sunday, Select Holidays: 10:00am – 4:00pmMore 
  • Address: 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, CA 94605

Please note this not a complete history of the Oakland Zoo. Please let me know about any errors or additions. Thanks

The End

Author:

I grew up in the Montclair District of Oakland, CA. I attended Thornhill Elementary School, Montera Junior High, Skyline High School, and spent some time at Merritt College.

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