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What is the Old Los Angeles Zoo? The Story Behind the Abandoned Zoo in Griffith Park

What is the Old Los Angeles Zoo? The Story Behind the Abandoned Zoo in Griffith Park

Unearth the mystery of Griffith Park's abandoned zoo. From its bustling days to its current tranquil allure—experience LA's hidden gem.

Xavier Johnson


2 min read

September 19, 2023

Nestled in the heart of the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles lies a relic of the past, a forgotten gem with tales to tell: the Old Los Angeles Zoo. Situated within the sprawling confines of Griffith Park, this abandoned zoo stands as a hauntingly beautiful testament to LA's history and the changing landscape of animal care and conservation.

The origins of the Old Los Angeles Zoo can be traced back to 1912 when the zoo officially opened its doors. Housing a collection of animals ranging from monkeys to lions, the zoo rapidly became a favorite spot for residents and tourists alike. Although the enclosures were a far cry from the expansive, naturalistic habitats seen in modern zoos, they were state-of-the-art for their time.

Golden Days

During its heyday, the zoo attracted countless visitors. Excited children clamored to see elephants, watch monkeys swing from tree to tree, and hear the roars of majestic big cats. The park itself was festooned with picnic spots, allowing families to make a day of their visit, enjoying the California sun amid the sounds of the animal kingdom.

Yet, as time went on, the world's understanding of animal welfare grew and evolved. The small, iron-barred cages and concrete pits that were once deemed adequate for wild creatures began to be seen for what they truly were: cruel and inhumane. The old LA Zoo, like many institutions of its time, faced increasing criticism for its outdated facilities.

Shift to the New

Recognizing the need for change, the city of Los Angeles started planning for a new zoo that would prioritize animal welfare and conservation. In 1966, after over half a century of operation, the old zoo was closed, and the animals were transferred to the newly built Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, located just a couple of miles north. This new facility was designed with modern concepts in mind, featuring larger and more naturalistic habitats for its residents.

The Abandoned Zoo Today

Walking through the Old Los Angeles Zoo today is like stepping into a bygone era. Empty cages and enclosures, overgrown with vegetation, paint a somber picture of what once was. Graffiti artists have left their mark, turning some of the old exhibits into canvases. Hikers, urban explorers, and history enthusiasts flock to the site to soak in its eerie beauty and reflect on the past.

One of the most popular attractions for visitors is the series of old animal enclosures built into the hillside. These cavities, once homes for bears and other large mammals, are now empty reminders of the park's history. Nearby, the picnic area provides a spot for visitors to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the park, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Over the years, the abandoned zoo has also served as a backdrop for numerous films, photoshoots, and theatrical performances, adding an element of Hollywood mystique to its legacy.

Today, as you wander the paths of the old zoo and trace the outlines of history with your fingertips, take a moment to reflect on the journey we've made as a society. The Old Los Angeles Zoo may be a relic of the past, but its story is one that continues to resonate, reminding us of the importance of compassion, understanding, and growth.

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