Oakland Zoo Celebrates 100th Anniversary Milestone This Year

Oakland Zoo
January 12, 2022
(LEFT: Oakland Zoo’s Main Entrance in 1990 vs. RIGHT: the Zoo’s Main Entrance in Present Day; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo)

Oakland, CA – January 12, 2022… January 1st marked the launch of Oakland Zoo's centennial year. Since June 6, 1922, the Zoo has evolved from a single building in Snow Park near downtown Oakland, to Joaquin Miller Park in 1926, to its current location in the hills of Knowland Park in 1939. Today, the Oakland Zoo has evolved greatly with the changing times and attracts almost 900,000 guests per year and is 100-acres large; and is one of the four largest zoos in California.

While growing in size, Oakland Zoo has also become a pioneer in animal welfare over the years, and proudly partners with animal rights organizations including PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Some techniques, such as ‘protected contact’ management for elephants, are now practiced by zoos worldwide. The Zoo is a leader in animal rescue by providing animal care, rehabilitation, and sanctuary for animals rescued from human-wildlife conflict, the exotic pet trade, or natural disasters. Oakland Zoo is also dedicated to youth education and partners with over 25 conservation organizations globally, equally committed to preserving species and their habitats in the wild.

“It’s with enormous pride to serve as CEO during this incredible milestone. There has been so much accomplished over these many years in making the Zoo what it is today, and I’m honored to lead Oakland Zoo into the next 100 years. So much has evolved in the past century in the world – and in the role of zoos and their purpose – Oakland Zoo is fully committed in doing our part and leading the next generation of conservationists to blaze the trail ahead,” Nik Dehejia, CEO of Oakland Zoo – Conservation Society of California.    

(LEFT: Oakland Zoo Founder & naturalist Henry A. Snow; Photo Credit Oakland Museum, RIGHT: Nik Dehejia, Oakland Zoo’s current CEO; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo)

In the early years, from 1922 to 1950, Oakland Zoo was founded by and under management of naturalists Henry A. Snow and his son Sidney Snow. Although no longer privately owned, and managed by the Conservation Society of California, the Snow family legacy remains actively present today, through the great granddaughter of Henry Snow and the granddaughter of Sidney Snow, Nancy Clark:

“As great granddaughter and granddaughter of the Zoo's founders, Henry and Sidney Snow, and as current Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees, I am thrilled both personally and professionally at how much the Oakland Zoo has accomplished and grown these 100 years. Our family is certain that Henry and Sidney would be beyond proud at what the Oakland Zoo has become,” Nancy Clark, Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees, Oakland Zoo – Conservation Society of California.

While Oakland Zoo takes pride in its accomplishments, milestones, and animal-focused efforts, much was undertaken in recent decades to evolve and improve the zoo’s facilities, programs, and public reputation. Virtually bankrupt and branded by media and the Humane Society as one of the ten worst zoos in the U.S in 1984, Dr. Joel Parrott's began his tenure as CEO and President that same year and began turning things around. Significant changes were made to improve animal care and welfare, habitats and infrastructure.  Conservation work and education programs were created. In 1988, Oakland Zoo received accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). With Dr. Parrott’s vision, the Zoo grew from 25 acres to 100 acres, 15 employees to 240, and is the nationally accredited, award-winning, progressive, conservation and education-focused Zoo it is today.

(LEFT: Dr. Joel Parrott CEO of Oakland Zoo (also a veterinarian, from 1987 to 2021); Photo Credit Oakland Zoo)(RIGHT: Dr. Alex Herman VP of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo; Photo Credit Oakland Zoo)

One of the most significant Oakland Zoo projects in the past decade is the opening of the California Trail. A 45-acre, transformational project which furthered the Zoo's commitments to animal care, education, and conservation. The California Trail expansion spotlights the significance of the state’s unique environmental history and what we can all do to ensure the future of California’s wildlife and the nature that surrounds us.

The next 100 years will lead a purpose-driven future focused on the pursuit of excellence in animal care and welfare, the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in the wild, and the conservation of threatened species everywhere. Education programs will expand, and work to inspire youth in natural sciences to find solutions to the growing climate challenge, the preservation of nature and the importance of wildlife.

To celebrate with their community and Zoo guests throughout the year, new and exclusive events are planned such as a birthday celebration festival on June 5th at the Zoo’s original birthplace, Snow Park, in downtown Oakland. The special day will be filled with festivities for all ages to enjoy and free to the community. The Zoo has brought back and enhanced many guest favorite events as well, such as Brunch for the Wild Bunch, Earth Day, Walk in the Wild, and Boo at the Zoo.

As the Zoo reflects on its history, it invites the community to share their Oakland Zoo memories, and Zoo visits this year by tagging them on social media using #OZ100.

For more information on the Zoo's Centennial Celebration, events, and festivities, please visit: oaklandzoo.org/centennial


Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo


Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 239

Erin Dogan Harrison

Oakland Zoo


Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 120



Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.