Oakland Zoo adds gondola, 7 new animal species, 50 acres

- More than 20 years in the making, the Oakland Zoo on Thursday opened a new exhibit that doubles the size of the zoo and adds seven new native California animal species. 

The 56-acre California Trail, which adds American buffalo, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, jaguars, California condors, and gray wolves also includes five different animal-inspired children’s play zones, an open-air gondola, conservation exhibits and an overnight campground. Bald eagles will arrive in a few weeks. 

Zoo officials said some of the new animals came from California and out-of-state zoos, while others were rescued and rehabilitated from the wild. Many have been living at the zoo for months, but were not available to the public until Thursday. 

“The California Trail at the Oakland Zoo is unique. Beyond the gondola ride, spectacular views, and our many rescued animals in their expansive habitats this is about inspiring people to connect with our state’s remarkable biodiversity and how to live with wildlife so we can protect their futures,” said Oakland Zoo President Dr. Joel Parrott. 

Among new Oakland Zoo wildlife are Coloma, Toro and Silverado, three young, orphaned mountain lions, who were so malnourished they had to remain under quarantine with around-the-clock care for months, but are now part of one of the largest mountain lion exhibits in the world. 

Two Gray wolves, Sequoia and Siskiyou, arrived at the zoo late last year after being born in captivity.

Now in their new, two-acre home, zoo officials said the two wolves represent a much larger and inspiring story of wolf conservation in California.

Wild wolves are now returning to California - after being extirpated during government-run antipredator campaigns a century ago. The hope is for the two to continue to bond are create a pack with their pups next spring.

Also featured in the new California Trail exhibit are a mother black bear and her four cubs, who were feed by people in Central California and lost their natural foraging skills. When the mama bear threatened a human while scrounging for food, she faced a death sentence. But the zoo stepped in and rescued the bears for the new exhibit. 

“When bears learn to take advantage of humans, specifically our kitchens and trash cans, they become comfortable around us and make some folks nervous," Ann Bryant, executive director of the Bear League, said in a statement.

"Too often the answer is to destroy the bears. We are grateful this bear family was saved from that horrific fate and instead (was) invited to live at the Oakland Zoo' wonderful new California Trail where they will help teach people how to responsibly co-exist with wildlife.” 

At Thursday’s ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration, which was attended by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, zoo officials said those bears as well as the others were given "a taste of home in their new home" when four tons of snow was trucked in for the unveiling party. 

The Oakland Zoo is now home to more than 700 native and exotic animals. 

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