A look back at 50 years of the LA Zoo

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The Los Angeles Zoo turned 50-years-old today and decided to “zooLAbrate” (their words, not ours) with discounted admission, special guests, and treats. In honor of the zoo’s big birthday, we’re looking back at photos from its five decade history—and a few images of zoos that served as precursors to the Griffith Park institution that today draws almost 1.8 million visitors per year. Hope you zoojoy! (You know, like enjoy, but with zoo in there, oh never mind.)

Elephant statues at a zoo entrance
Long before the LA Zoo (or PETA), Angelenos flocked to a private zoo in Lincoln Park owned by motion picture pioneer William Selig. Known variously as the Selig Zoo, the Luna Park Zoo, and the California Zoological Gardens, it was the place to go if you wanted to pet or even manhandle a badly mistreated wild animal.
Kids gather around a monkey cage with iron barsKids gather around a monkey cage with iron bars
The old zoo in Griffith Park drew crowds well into the 1960s, but was eventually replaced amid concerns about its small size and inhumane conditions.
Alfred Hitchcock and Sir Edward Hallstrom look over a kangarooAlfred Hitchcock and Sir Edward Hallstrom look over a kangaroo
In 1964, Alfred Hitchcock helped to acquire a pair of kangaroos for the soon-to-open new zoo, built on the site of a former golf course in Griffith Park.
Visitors look at the pond in front of the zooVisitors look at the pond in front of the zoo
The zoo opened in 1966, and as the LA Times notes, it was somewhat groundbreaking at the time in creating spaces for its animals that somewhat mirrored their natural habitats.
Aerial shot of tram at LA ZooAerial shot of tram at LA Zoo
A tram carries passengers through the zoo shortly after it opened in the 1960s
A crowd of people at the zooA crowd of people at the zoo
Visitors crowd around an exhibit
metal and glass aviarymetal and glass aviary
An aviary that once housed birds at the zoo
Flamingos clean their feathers in the waterFlamingos clean their feathers in the water
In 1987, coyotes entered an unlocked cage and proceeded to ravage the zoo’s flamingo population. These birds were among the survivors of that grisly attack.
Older man with elephantOlder man with elephant
In the 1980s, the L.A. Zoo acquired an elephant named after children’s book character Babar. Here, Laurent de Brunhoff, author of the series poses with the elephant.

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