Beautiful Beasts and a Beastly Ball at the Los Angeles Zoo

The LA Zoo is home to 1,400 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, representing more than 270 different species (photo by Greg Aragon)

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There is some big news going on at the Los Angeles Zoo. Last month a rare baby zebra was born, and later this month the zoo will host its annual “Beastly Ball” fundraiser party, which raises money and awareness for animal conservation and habitat preservation for some of the world’s most rare and vulnerable species.

With this in mind, I knew it was time for a return visit to one of my favorite Los Angeles attractions.

One of the highlights of my visit was the Chimpanzees of Mahale Mountains exhibit. Lauded by primatologist Jane Goodall as one of the finest zoo habitats, this one-acre environment is home to a large troop of chimpanzees. It is designed to resemble the native environment of Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains in Africa and features mountainous rock formations, waterfalls and streams, palm trees and soft green grass. The facility also features a chimpanzee penthouse with heated bedrooms for the apes and an outdoor playground that has a jungle gym.

After studying the chimpanzees, we stopped at Campo Gorilla Reserve. Home to seven western lowland gorillas, the enclosure is highlighted by a forested pathway that visitors walk along to see the animals living among waterfalls and lush plants. There are two separate troops of gorillas, a family, and a bachelor group. Glassed viewing areas and planted moats are all that separates Zoo guests from the largest primate in the world.

From the gorillas, we stepped into Red Ape Rain Forest, a multi-level tropical region, where orangutans of the Southeast Asian rain forest roam through 20-foot-tall bamboo, fruit, and ficus trees. The main viewing area is a large platform that allows Zoo guests to view these arboreal apes as they climb to canopy level.

After hanging out with the primates, we walked to see the Grevy’s Zebras, to see if we could get a glimpse of the new baby foal that was born last month. As the first successful baby zebra born at the zoo since 1988, the foal was born to father Khalfani and mother Jamila.

Grevy’s zebras are the largest and most threatened of the three zebra species. They inhabit semi-arid and open scrub grasslands in Africa. The baby was bonding with her mother when we got there, but we still got to see another zebra roaming around.

From the zebras, we headed to see one of their biggest predators – the African lion. At this enclosure we watched a large male and female, strolling around the shade of their habitat. And although he seemed a little tired during our visit, the male managed to give the crowd a few roars.

Other cool zoo exhibits include Rainforest of the Americas, the newest state-of-the-art exhibit, which immerses visitors in the theme, “the rainforest is a home;” Elephants of Asia, which is dedicated to the health and welfare of the elephants; Meerkat Manor, featuring a mob of friendly meerkats; and Flamingo Mingle, where guests can step into the flamingo habitat, feed them, and become one of the flock during a fifteen-minute, $25 interactive experience.

On Saturday, May 18, the zoo will host its annual Beastly Ball, a fundraiser for the preservation of endangered animals, including the California condor, mountain yellow-legged frogs, and peninsular pronghorn. This star-studded event brings together celebrities, industry executives, city officials, and zoo supporters for a wild night of food, fun, and fundraising.

Guests of the Beastly Ball are treated to rare after-hours Zoo access and activities. There will also be cuisine prepared by some of LA’s most notable restaurants; a mobile-bidding silent auction; roaming entertainment; and more. Beastly Ball tickets are $1,500 per person. For more info, call (323) 644-9105 or visit:

The 133-acre Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is home to more than 1,400 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles representing more than 270 different species, of which more than 58 are endangered. In addition, the Zoo’s botanical collection comprises several planted gardens and more than 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants.

The LA Zoo is located in Griffith Park, at the intersection of the 5 and 134 freeways. The address is 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA. 90027. Admission: adults (13 and older) – $21; seniors (62 and older) – $18; children 2 to 12 – $16; under 2 – free. For more information, visit:

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Greg Aragon, Writer Greg's Getaway
Greg Aragon is a travel writer from Pasadena, California. For the past 15 years Greg has authored “Greg’s Getaway,” a popular travel column that covers the globe. In the course of writing Greg's Getaway, Greg has traveled to more than 25 countries in search of exciting destinations, people, food, drink and culture. From Alaska to Zermatt, Greg has experienced the thrill and beauty of traveling to the fullest. Along the way he has dog sledded on glaciers, drank with sea captains, danced with hula girls, dined with royalty, sung with street performers, wrestled with pigs, jumped from airplanes, conquered rapids, panned for gold, rode a rhino, slept in trees and much, much more. When not on the road, Greg enjoys strumming his old nylon string guitar and playing basketball.