Oakland Zoo was founded in 1922 by naturalist Henry A. Snow. In 1936, Henry's son, Sidney, established the nonprofit organization East Bay Zoological Society, which was originally known as the Alameda County Botanical and Zoological Society. The East Bay Zoological Society operated and managed the Zoo for the City of Oakland from 1982 until August 2017, when it was renamed the Conservation Society of California to better reflect the Zoo’s evolving purpose and mission in its commitment to conservation.
Over the past twenty-five years there have been countless capital improvements to improve animal care, habitat design and the visitor experience. The Zoo is comprised of several regions: Adventure Landing, African Savanna, African Veldt, Flamingo Plaza, Tropical Rain Forest, Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo, Wild Australia, and California Trail. Over 850 native and exotic animals live in expansive naturalistic habitats and include chimpanzees, sun bears, elephants, lions, giraffes and more. Many of the Zoo’s animals are rescues. In 1991, the Zoo pioneered the “protected contact” methodology in animal husbandry, which places barriers between zookeepers and elephants and incorporates persuasion through rewards rather than discipline. The progress we have made and continue to make to this keystone program has garnered respect and approval from animal behaviorists around the world, and most importantly resulted in happy and healthy elephants. The Zoo is committed to providing an outstanding experience for Zoo visitors, delivering a rich array of education programs and a great family experience.
Governed by a Board of Trustees, the Conservation Society of California manages and operates Oakland Zoo and is comprised of dedicated volunteers who provide oversight of the organization's mission, core values and policies.
Managed by the Conservation Society of California, Oakland Zoo has invested over $1,000,000 in contributions supporting its 25 partnering conservation organizations in saving animal species worldwide. Zoo-based education efforts in conservation are extensive and growing, as is expanding existing zoological programs such as re-populating critically endangered species back into the wild and collaborating with conservationists locally and abroad in research studies to benefit animals both captive and in the wild.
As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Zoo is part of the largest conservation organization in the nation. 230 AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium institutions contribute over $160 million every year to wildlife conservation. AZA institutions also train 40,000 teachers every year, supporting state science curricula with teaching materials and hands-on opportunities for students who might otherwise have no first-hand experience with wildlife. We are committed to leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife both locally and globally.
Public support comes from the City of Oakland and East Bay Regional Parks District, which contributed 11% of the Zoo's 2017 operating budget of $18.1 million. Remaining funding comes from the community that supports and enjoys the Zoo including private individuals, foundations, corporations, and memberships. Annual public support allows admission prices to remain low, and therefore keeps this gem of the Bay Area accessible to all economic levels of the community.
Watch the Conservation Society of California/Oakland Zoo Annual Meeting from January 19, 2022: