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News 8 Throwback: Animal memories from the world-famous San Diego Zoo

This week we’ve dug up a few of our favorite vintage zoo videos starring a giant panda, red pandas (no relation), a baby sun bear, and a goat on the go.

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo has been a favorite attraction for tourists and locals alike for decades. Over the years, CBS 8 has had the pleasure of going behind-the-scenes with animals big and small at the world-famous zoo. This week we’ve dug up a few of our favorite vintage zoo videos starring two gorillas that are not quite a love match and a hyena that isn't too happy to see the zoo keeper at sunrise.

What are your favorite animals at the San Diego Zoo?  

Gorillas Abe and Bouba meet in 1979

CBS 8’s Judy Elfenbein was at the zoo to capture all the drama when gorillas Bouba and Abe met in March 1979. The San Diego Zoo was hoping they would be a good match, but it wasn’t looking very hopeful as the two fought for domination. Bouba was 30 years old and “as far as anyone could tell always lived a celibate life.” Abe had four baby gorillas. A short article from July 12, 1981, found from a google search, delivers the bad news that they broke up. “Officials said that Abe, the 25-year-old male, just couldn’t overcome the age differential between him and his 30-year-old intended. A spokesman said Bouba was a big tease. She’d tease him and stay out of his reach, the spokesman said.”

Red pandas debut at the San Diego Zoo in 1979  

In late 1979, there were two new kids on the block at the San Diego Zoo. Though this News 8 piece calls these adorable creatures “lesser pandas,” it was later determined that red pandas are not actually related to giant pandasThe two making their debut were the only ones in the United States at the time making them a popular attraction. Young zoo visitors spoke to News 8’s Paula Zahn about the furry additions who they said resembled raccoons and foxes. 

As the sun was rising, so were the animals at the San Diego Zoo in 1985

CBS 8 photojournalist Jim Blankinship arrived at the San Diego Zoo early in the morning in April 1985. As the sun was rising, so were the animals. A zookeeper greets a friendly camel, chefs prepare breakfast, pens are washed down, and flamingos do their best to wake up other residents. A hyena isn't too happy to see the keeper with what looks like a dog bone--grrr. The people start to trickle in and a beautiful new day begins at the world famous San Diego Zoo.

Goat goes on the lam from the San Diego Zoo in 1986  

One night in 1986, a Cretan goat (also known as a kri-kri) escaped from its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. News 8 was there as zookeepers went in search of the goat on the lam who had broken out several times beforeonly this time he hopped a second fence and was out of the zoo entirely. Zoo officials were worried the goat would make it onto the nearby freeway and cause an accident. The runaway goat did hop onto State Route 163 at two different times caught on camera – once after being tranquilized! But eventually, he collapsed and was taken to safety. 

Liberty the baby sun bear makes debut at San Diego Zoo in 1986 

In 1986, a sun bear named Liberty made his debut at the San Diego Zoo. He was the first born there in 46 years and was introduced to the awaiting crowd when his mother Sugar Bear dragged him from a hiding spot.  The smallest of the world’s eight bear species, the sun bear can be identified by a white or yellow crescent shape - resembling a setting sun - on its chest. These crests are individual to each bear – like fingerprints are to humans.

Hua Mei the giant panda at the San Diego Zoo in 1999 and 2000   

On Dec. 1, 1999, a baby giant panda at the San Diego Zoo was given her name at a special ceremony. Hua Mei was 102 days old at the time and doctors at the zoo said she was doing well. Her name meant China/USA in Chinese honoring the research and work of both countries for her to be born.    

A couple of months later, in early 2000, Hua Mei and her mother Bai Yun went on public display at the San Diego Zoo. The sight of the beloved giant pandas delighted to animal lovers who had been watching the pair on a panda cam up until then. News 8 featured the popular pandas in several stories that year seen here.   


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