The San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park is a zoo in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego, California. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in the city and Southern California. The Park houses a large array of wild and endangered animals including species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. The park is in a semi-arid environment and one of its most notable features is the Journey into Africa tram which explores the expansive African exhibits. These free-range enclosures house such animals as cheetahs, antelopes, lions, giraffes, okapis, elephants, zebras, Przewalski's horses, rhinos, and bonobos. The park is also noted for its California condor breeding program, the most successful program in the country.
The Park, visited by 2 million people annually, has an area of 1,800 acres (7 km²) and, in 2005, housed 3000 animals of more than 400 species plus 3,500 species of unique plants.
Depending on the season, the park has about 400 to 600 employees. The park is also Southern California's quarantine center for zoo animals imported into the United States through San Diego.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park has the world's largest veterinary hospital. Next door to the hospital is the Center for Research on Endangered Species which holds the park's Frozen Zoo.
Both the park and the San Diego Zoo are run by the Zoological Society of San Diego. The Wild Animal Park is 32 miles (51 km) away from the zoo, at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road east of Escondido, California along SR 78.
The California wildfires of October 2007 that officially started on October 21, 2007, threatened the park and caused it to temporarily close. The park also moved many of their endangered animals out of danger. However, a clapper rail and kiang died because of complications. The situation stabilized by the end of November.
The park's most famous and popular exhibits are the open-range enclosures. Visitors are taken on a tram tour to view various habitats representing the Asian Plains, East Africa (the largest of the enclosures; it alone is larger than the San Diego Zoo), North Africa, Asian Waterhole, Southern Africa, and the Mountain Habitat. A number of smaller enclosures visible only from the tram are home to Grevy's zebras, Somali wild asses, kiangs (one of the world's only captive populations of this endangered wild equine), Arabian oryx, gorals, Japanese serows, black rhinoceroses, bonobos, and Przewalski's wild horses.
Species of note in the open enclosures include two subspecies of giraffe, rhinos (the wild animal park has the world's most successful breeding program for Southern white rhinos and is the only New World zoo to have Northern white rhinos; Indian rhinos are also on display), gaur, vultures, Cape buffalo, markhor, elephants, and many species of antelope, gazelle, wild cattle, and deer.
The park formerly operated a monorail line, the Wgasa Bush Line, which ran through the wild animal park. The name of the monorail was chosen by chief designer Chuck Faust, and is an acronym short for "who gives a shit anyway.
The Monorail line has been retired, partially due to high maintenance costs, and in March 2007 the new Journey into Africa attraction opened. The Journey into Africa tour brings visitors eye to eye with wildlife from different parts of Africa. In addition, another route is planned to bring visitors through the Asian field exhibits and into eight new ones that will house a variety of African animals from rock hyrax to Hartmann's mountain zebras The Journey into Africa tour utilizes a wheeled tram that runs on biofuel instead of a monorail, and, unlike the monorail, the attraction now costs extra.
As well as the tram, the park has also added a tethered balloon ride that takes visitors high in the air for a bird's eye view of the exhibits.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park's Nairobi Village houses numerous exhibits for smaller animals. Among these are meerkats, pudu, an African Aviary, lemurs, flamingos, babirusa, red river hogs, and bee eaters. A large lagoon is home to numerous species of waterfowl, among them shoebill storks. Lorikeet Landing and Hidden Jungle display feedable Lories and lorikeets, and butterflies, respectively. Also, there is a nursery where visitors can watch baby animals being hand-reared as well as a nearby petting corral. Finally, a gorilla habitat houses a troop of Western lowland gorillas.
Condor Ridge displays endangered North American desert wildlife. The featured species are California condors (the wild animal park was the key force in the recovery effort for these birds and this is the only place in the world where the public can see them in captivity) and desert bighorn sheep. Other species displayed include aplomado falcons, thick billed parrots, prairie dogs, black footed ferrets, magpies, and desert tortoises.
Heart of Africa is one of the park's feature exhibits. Visitors go down a trail which replicates changing life zones in Africa. Since a real African trail would have no signs, visitors instead get information about the animals encountered from a booklet they receive at the exhibit entrance. The exhibit begins with scrub animals - vultures, lesser kudu, and giant eland. It then progresses to forest (okapi, duikers, and wattled cranes). It showcases plains animals - bontebok, warthogs, ground hornbills, cheetahs, and a research camp) against a backdrop of the open-range East Africa exhibit. There is a giraffe feeding station where visitors can purchase biscuits to feed the giraffes. A central lagoon displays lesser and greater flamingos, waterfowl, and an island with colobus monkeys.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park is also noted for its extensive botanical gardens, many of which are their own attractions separate from the animal exhibits.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park now also features the SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D ride which costs extra.