The oldest part of the San Diego Zoo, Cat Canyon, built in 1915, used to house the big cats. Over the past couple of years all the cats were moved out of Cat Canyon as it was destroyed to make way for the new Africa Rocks! natural habitat exhibit. After Flamingo Lagoon, which was at the Zoo entrance, Cat Canyon was always #2 on our list. The only thing better than big kitties is little household kitties. While Africa Rocks! was being built, one had to trundle all over the Zoo hoping to see the big kitties. Sometimes the big kitties were nowhere to be found, having been loaned to other zoos. Uprooting animals from their homes of 10, 20, 30 years and sending them off to a strange zoo with strange smells, perhaps even colder weather, just seemed so wrong. It’s still difficult to find all the big kitties since there is no Cat Canyon anymore, so here, dear readers, just for you, are all sorts of big kitties in one place, my blog!
Rarely is the snow leopard (last picture) visible so well, either because he’s wandering around or hiding. I had never noticed that he only has one eye, and didn’t notice that until just now when I was processing these pictures. This is one reason why having a nice 150-600mm telephoto lens is useful, to get up close and personal, to see things one has never seen before.
In today’s world, all of the animals residing at the San Diego Zoo come from four sources: (1) born at the Zoo; (2) rescued from a failing zoo somewhere else, like eight of elephants that were rescued from a zoo closing in Oklahoma and a “backyard zoo” in Texas; (3) rescued from the illegal animal trade; or (4) brought here as part of the Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research or the Global Wildlife Conservancy program.
The latter two programs are why we still have California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus). In 1987, the California Condor was declared extinct in the wild due to the effects of DDT, which resulted in defective egg shells, and hunters’ lead bullets. When hunters killed wildlife that the condors feasted on, the condors would often ingest lead bullets as well, which killed them.
Because of the Zoo’s breeding program, as of December 2016 there were 446 condors living in the wild or in captivity. The ones living in the wild, about 170 of them, were re-introduced to California, Arizona, Nevada, and Baja California because of the Zoo’s Captive Breeding Program.