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The LA Zoo To Celebrate Its 50th Birthday Monday And Yes, There Will Be Cake

LAZoo_1968.jpg
Los Angeles Zoo entrance in 1968. (Photo courtesy of the LA Zoo)
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The Los Angeles Zoo turns 50 on November 28 (making it almost a month older than Kiefer Sutherland) and a full day of celebrations are planned for Monday. The festivities, officially dubbed “zooLAbration,” are set to begin at 9:30 a.m.

For a little history, Los Angeles’ first zoo opened in 1885, and was located in Lincoln Park (then called Eastlake), according to the L.A. Times. With lobbying from the city’s zoological society, a new zoo opened in Griffith Park in 1912, just two miles north of the current zoo. The Griffith Park Zoo closed in August 1966, making way for the Los Angeles Zoo to open in November of that year.

Guests to the LA Zoo’s opening found over 3,000 animals with an admission of $1 for adults and 50 cents for children (boy, have times changed). The Times also snarked that, with the opening of the new zoo, L.A. could “rid itself of the unenviable distinction of being the only major city in the world without a major zoo.”

The zoo fell on hard times during the 1990s, leading to a $172 million infrastructure overhaul. In 1995, the conditions nearly cost the zoo its accreditation. In October 2000, two gorillas escaped from their enclosures in separate incidents. These escapes were part of the 35 animals that managed to slip their cages in a span of half a decade, lending the zoo an unwanted notoriety. A 270-pound gorilla named Evelyn was apparently particularly prone to making a break for it, per Time:

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Over the years, Evelyn escaped her enclosure some four or five times. Once she jumped onto another gorilla's back to hop over the wall. Another time, she used some overgrown vines to pull herself out of her exhibit. She then had full run of the zoo for an hour as TV-news copters hovered overhead and visitors were evacuated.

But the zoo has been on the rebound as of late. Several new species have been acquired, and on November 9, a Masai giraffe was born.

Festivities for the 50th anniversary begin at 9:30 a.m. with a performance by the Stilt Circus. Throughout the day, admission and food will be 50 percent off. At 10:15 a.m., a thousand guests will receive birthday cake.

Also, if anyone from the LA Zoo is reading this, I’m still waiting on my invitation to come play with the tigers.

The Los Angeles Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Drive in Griffith Park, at the junction of the 134 and 5 freeways. Free parking is available. (323) 644-4200