The Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres near the ocean in Santa Barbara, California. It was built on the site of what was known as the Child Estate. The zoo has been ranked numerous times as one of the nation’s best small zoos. It has more than 500 animals in numerous exhibits, including capybara and California condors, and is famous for having had a giraffe with a crooked neck. It also features a few non-animal attractions, such as the 2 ft narrow gauge Zoo Train, complete with a pair of Chance Rides C.P. Huntington locomotives. The zoo first opened in August 1963.
exhibits: Cats of Africa, The Crawford Family Penguin House, Elephant Walk, The Forest’s Edge.
Cats of Africa, which features African lions and black-footed cats, opened in 2003. Built on a hillside, the area’s black-footed cat exhibit is at the top of the slope, with the lion exhibit on the slope itself. The lions are visible from a platform near the black-footed cat exhibit.
The Forest’s Edge houses two male western lowland gorillas. The exhibit opened in 1996 and has a glass-walled viewing area as well as an overlook from a replica ranger station.
California Trails exhibits California condors, Channel Island fox, desert tortoises and bald eagles. The condor aviary can be viewed from two sides, including on an elevated path lower on the hillside, past the bald eagles, and leading to The Forest’s Edge.
Exhibiting animals from the savanna, African Veldt has Masai giraffes, East African crowned cranes, and Sulcata tortoises in a multi-species enclosure as well as slender-tailed meerkats in a smaller exhibit.
The Crawford Family Penguin House opened in June 2006. It houses a colony of Humboldt penguins and has above- and under-water viewing. In the rest of the exhibit area are Inca terns and other coastal South American birds.
Elephant Walk opened in 1972 and houses Asian elephants. The exhibit was renovated in 2005, enlarging both the land area and pool size, and an area for Asian pond turtles was added nearby.
Critically endangered Masai giraffe, native to Africa, south of the Sahara, have become pregnant and successfully given birth at the zoo. Considered genetically valuable they are shared with other zoos.
The “crooked-necked giraffe”
Gemina, (July 16, 1986 – January 9, 2008) the “crooked-necked giraffe,” was one of the most popular animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo. ABaringo giraffe, she was born with a straight neck at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. At the age of three she developed a bend in her neck. The zoo’s veterinarian said that despite her deformity, “Gemina led a very typical existence and was treated as a normal member of the herd. She did not appear to be in discomfort and exhibited normal giraffe behaviors.”
Gemina was euthanized at the age of 21 years. “Consistent with the challenges of old age,” she had lost her appetite and experienced a decline in quality of life. It is believed that her deformity was not a cause of the condition that led to the decision to euthanize her.