Plans for the Park were underway in the 1960s—but a sign in San Pasqual Valley was all that marked the spot for many years.
The Park's groundbreaking ceremony took place on May 14, 1969—with a special appearance by a guanaco and a young Asian elephant.
The Park was the vision of Zoo Director Dr. Charles Schroeder, who worked tirelessly to make it a reality—right down to walking the grounds himself and helping to stake out the path for the monorail.
Under construction: The Park's Nairobi Village takes shape in 1971.
The southern white rhino was one of the first species to take up residence, even before the Park was open. In 1971, an expedition dubbed “The Rhino Express” brought 20 southern white rhinos from South Africa aboard the S.S. Harry Culbreath to Houston, Texas. They were then transported on flatbed trucks to San Diego.
A collection of African masks created by Park designer Charles Faust were the only adornments to mark the entrance of the Park from the road when it opened in 1972.
Joan Embery shows off the skills of Carol the elephant in the Park's first elephant show.
In the Park's early days, the monorail route went right by the gorilla exhibit. The Park's first gorillas included silverback Trib, who became one of the Park's best-known and most-admired residents.
In 1973, the Safari Park began breeding the endangered Przewalski's horse, a species that had been considered extinct in its native Mongolia since the 1960s. Breeding efforts were successful, and more than 130 of these wild horses have been born at the Park; plus we've helped reintroduce them to the wild and revealed important information about the genetics of the herds.
In 1978, the Safari Park brought a breeding group of critically endangered Arabian oryx to San Diego in an effort to help save the species.
Breeding efforts were successful, and animals from the Park were released back to the wild. Today, the Arabian oryx has been taken off the endangered species list.
The Safari Park's first caravan tours began in 1980, bringing visitors closer than ever to our African animals.
By the early 1980s, the wild population of California condors had been reduced to only 22 birds. In an effort to save the species from extinction, several organizations banded together, including the Safari Park, to bring the remaining birds into breeding facilities. This is the Safari Park's “condorminium,” an off-exhibit facility built just for the California condors.
By its 10th anniversary in 1982, the Safari Park had grown and developed into the scenic place Dr. Charles Schroeder had envisioned.
In 1983, Sisquoc, the first California condor to hatch in a zoo, broke out of his shell. Since then, the Safari Park has had 171 of these birds hatch, and many of them are now flying in the wild once more.
In 1992, Jasiri, one of the Safari Park's cheetahs, gave birth to a litter of 5 cubs, bringing the total number of these cats born at the Park to an even 100. Since then, 35 more have been born. Behavior, reproduction, and nutrition studies by our researchers have uncovered information that has been essential to conserving this endangered species.
In 1993, the Safari Park opened a new greenhouse exhibit to showcase the smaller animals that live in the rain forest: Hidden Jungle. Lush plants, interesting insects, and colorful birds were the stars—including butterflies, which led to today's Butterfly Jungle event each spring.
In 1997, a whole new part of the Park was opened up to visitors: Heart of Africa. Acacia trees, tall grasses, winding paths, streams, and pools welcomed guests on a walking tour of African animals that included okapis, bonteboks, warthogs, secretary birds, elands, cheetahs, and African flamingos.
By its 30th anniversary in 2002, the Safari Park had proven to be an exemplary place for breeding endangered species and a haven for species of all kinds. The Park's innovative management, its conservation emphasis, and beautiful environment continue to be an inspiration.
In 2003, the Safari Park brought a herd of seven African elephants from Swaziland, where they had been designated for culling because overpopulation was destroying the habitat. The herd acclimated well to the Park and began breeding—resulting in the births of 10 calves by early 2012.
Bongo from the Park helped their wild brethren by journeying to Kenya to bolster the wild population.
The opening of Lion Camp in late spring offered guests amazing new viewing opportunities in which to observe our pride.
The Park welcomed the birth of its 50th greater one-horned rhino calf.
The Park announces that the herd of seven African elephants brought from Swaziland and saved from culling includes four pregnant cows.
Journey into Africa, the Park's new tour system that replaces the old WGASA railway, is launched in the spring.
The genetic pool of the Park's greater-one horned rhino crash gets more diverse with the arrival of new animals from India.
The Park's Safari list of options grows to include, along with Flightline, Roar & Snore, and others, the Rolling Safari, which gives guests a cool way for the adventurous to see the Park: on an off-road Segway® X2!
In an effort to better describe what a visit to the Park is like and to help differentiate it from the Zoo, the name of the facility is changed and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is born.
The Park's Cheetah Run allows guests to witness the fastest land mammal up close and personal doing what it does best: run! These spotted sprinters can go 0 to 70 mph in just 4 seconds.
On June 17, Monroe the western lowland gorilla was born to mom Kokamo. This was the first gorilla birth at the Park since 2000.
On January 20, 2012, the Safari Park's 61st Asian one-horned rhino was born, a female named Charlees. The Safari Park has the most successful breeding program in the world for this endangered rhino species.
On March 10, 2012, Saticoy the California condor hatched—the first chick to be watched by thousands on the Park's live Condor Cam. Saticoy has been a true ambassador for his species, and a community of supporters has eagerly watched his progress as he grows.