Grizzly Gulch brings record numbers to S.F. Zoo 

Not since 1984, when giant pandas Yun Yun and Ying Xin were introduced to adoring Bay Area locals, has the San Francisco Zoo raked in the attendance numbers it has during the past 12 months.

From June of last year to the beginning of this month, attendance numbers were tallied at 1,090,300, which Lora LaMarca, director of marketing at the zoo, called "a total record-breaking year."

The numbers are encouraging for the zoo, which has undergone numerous management changes in the past three years, including new directors and staff, LaMarca said. The city of San Francisco had managed the facility before the S.F. Zoological Society took over in 1993.

LaMarca credits zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo with helping the surge in attendance. She said Mollinedo has collaborated well with staff and reached out to Bay Area families and tourists.

"My theory is if you invite people to the zoo, they come," LaMarca said. "Everything is just going right."

Another reason for the attendance numbers is the plentiful animal exhibits, such as the newly opened Grizzly Gulch, the Australian bird display Binnowee Landing and the Reindeer Romp.

Premier facilities in the nation, such as the San Diego and Bronx zoos, draw attendance rates that are "off the charts," attracting about three million visitors a year. LaMarca said that The City’s zoo easily ranks in the top 15 nationally.

Projected figures for next year are estimated at more than a million — close to this year’s figure, LaMarca said. A temporary animatronic dinosaur exhibit scheduled to open next year is expected to be a popular attraction, which may raise attendance.

In 2002, LaMarca said attendance was "pumped up" to 1 million when foreign penguins began swimming in circles with the local penguins.

aterrazas@examiner.com


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