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  • San Diego ZooSan Diego Zoo, California
    The world famous San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, San Diego, California has grown into one of the biggest and most progressive zoos in the world, housing more than 4000 animals that represent over 800 species. It just happens to be one of few zoos in the world that has giant pandas and is run by the nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego. Set on 107 acres of parkland that is leased from the city, everything is owned by the city. The zoo grew from the exotic animal exhibitions that were left after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, with Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth starting the Zoological Society of San Diego in 1916. In 1921, a permanent plot of land was set aside in Balboa Park for the zoo, and it began to publish the ZooNooz in 1925. In 1923, Frank Buck became the temporary director, signing a three year contract with Wegeforth. Frank was recommended for the job by Dr. William T. Hornaday, the director of the Bronx Zoo. Buck soon began to clash with the strong willed Wegeforth and left after just three months, going back to collecting animals. Going through other short lived directors, Wegeforth made the zoo's bookkeeper, Belle Benchley, the executive secretary, which in effect became the zoo's director; which she did become officially some years later. She held that prestigious position from 1925 until 1953; and for the majority of that period was the only woman director of zoos in the world. Upon her retirement, Dr. Charles Schroeder took over the directorship. This zoo is one of the pioneers of cageless enclosures and the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species started in 1975, when Dr. Kurt Benirschke suggested that the museum become involved in that area and he became their first director. Through the years, the zoo has become very active in the conservation and species-preservation efforts with its Conservation Research facility raising pandas, tigers, African black rhinos and California condors. There are now many types of animals that are bred in captivity for later release back into their natural habitats, when and where it is appropriate. The zoo employs many professional veterinarians, geneticists and cytologists and has a cryopreservation facility for rare sperm and eggs called the Frozen Zoo. The exhibits are designed around a special habitat, with the same features being available to various kinds of animals that although different can co-exist side-by-side and enjoy the same native plant life. Like the African rainforest that contains gorillas, or the Arctic taiga and tundra where the polar bears live. A few of the biggest free-flight aviaries can be found here, with some displays being more natural with invisible wires and darkened shades (to see birds) and pools and open air moats for the bigger mammals. They also operate the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, that showcases the animals in a better and larger setting than those at the zoo. Between here and the zoo, the animals are exchanged often, as well as with other zoos around the world. The zoo is one of the few large zoos in the world that the majority of its enclosures are open-air, with the only building and closed in house is for reptiles.  The climate at the zoo is almost perfect for numerous of the plants and animals that live there. The expansive collection of birds, mammals and reptiles thrive here, but there is also an arboretum located on the grounds that contains a wonderful rare plant collection, and as part of its plant programs, raises rare animal foods. These include the 40 different types of bamboo grown for the pandas that are on long-term loan from the Chinese government, as well as 18 kinds of eucalyptus trees for the koalas. Permanent exhibits include the Monkey Trails and Forest Tales, the Panda Research Station, the Polar Bear Plunge, the Ituri Forest and the Elephant Odyssey.

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  • Maritime Museum of San DiegoMaritime Museum of San Diego, California
    The Maritime Museum of San Diego started in 1948, and is preserving one of the biggest collections of historical sea going ships in the nation. It is found in San Diego, California, on the bay, with their centerpiece the Star of India, an iron bark from 1863. The museum's library and research archives are located onboard the 1898 ferryboat Berkeley. It publishes the quarterly peer-reviewed journal Main'l Haul: A Journal of Pacific Maritime History and is just south of the San Diego International Airport. The marvelous vessels that are part of the collection include; the USS Dolphin, a diesel-electric sub launched in 1968 and decommissioned in 2007, the Star of India, B-39, a Soviet Foxtrot class submarine, Berkeley, HMS Surprise which is a 1970 copy of a Royal Navy frigate that was used in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the California, a 1984 copy of an 1847 cutter C. W. Lawrence and one of the tall ships of the state, Pilot a 1914 harbor pilot boat and the Medea, a 1904 steam yacht that served in both of the World Wars. Not too far away is the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, which opened for tours after the museum and many thought that it would take visitors away from the museum, but just the opposite happened and more visitors are coming here. The museum has achieved a worldwide reputation for maintaining, restoring and operating historic vessels; with one of the best collection of historic ships, that includes the world's oldest active ship still in operation. The museum offers a fantastic voyage aboard the California on the weekends, heading out to sea for four hours, this incredible replica of a cutter from 1847 is a beautiful ship full of sails and history. This adventure package, as it is called, offers you a chance to sail on the California, and the price includes the museum entry fee as well. As a passenger of the tall ship, you can become involved in the operation of the ship as she sails gallantly along the waves; giving you a most exciting adventure that will be remembered forever.

January 11, 2011