Saturday, December 26, 2009

Old LA Zoo

It was Christmas Day, and part of my orphan Christmas tradition is to meet up with a couple of friends, go for a hike in Griffith Park then take a spin on the Merry-Go-Round. This time, the friend who’s the trail aficionado decided to not join in, so I suggested a short route from the MGR parking lot around the Old Zoo. Huh?! Old Zoo you say?! Yes, there is an Old Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park, and the remnants of it are surprisingly accessible and family friendly. There are even picnic tables in one of the old bear grottos, and lots of welcoming green grassy areas nearby.

Very near Shane’s Inspiration playground, on the drive up to the golf club house, there is a sign marked Old Zoo. Park in the lot and follow the service road. After a short walk, you’ll spot cages and pens abandoned when the new Zoo opened in 1965.

Here you see a sign on the fencing around what was once an animal’s home. It reads “Site of the Old Los Angeles Zoo: This Griffith Park canyon area served as the City’s Zoo from its founding in 1912 to 1965, when the Los Angeles Zoo moved to its current location about two miles north of where you are currently standing. Many of the walls, grottos, and other enclosures you see today were built in the 1930s by County Relief workers and Works Progress Administration (WPA) crews. Once, bears, lions, monkeys, macaws, goats, elephants, reptiles, and turtles, among others, lived here and the sounds of their growls, roars, calls, and clamor filled this canyon. Although these historic enclosures are no longer appropriate for housing animals, they can be home to memories of family visits to the Griffith Park Zoo, as well as an opportunity to better understand developments in the zoological sciences. Please enjoy and respect the buildings, walls, and habitats that you will discover today.”

I’m not sure which animal resided here, but it seems shockingly small. And, I’m still trying to figure out where the elephants and lions lived, as they would need a larger space. I'm hoping the grassy area belonged to one of them. I think you’ll be startled at the standards of the time, and hopefully appreciate the expansion and renovations going on at the new Zoo. I saw the work on the new elephant habitat when I was there earlier this month. As the sign suggests, take the opportunity to see how far we’ve come in understanding the needs of our animal friends.

Click here to go to Griffith Park's Web site.

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