SANTA ANA, CALIF.–They say it’s a jungle on the I-5 Freeway most days. But the REAL jungle is just a couple tree branches away. Santa Ana Zoo in Prentice Park less than a block (as the crow flies) from the busy interstate, was built from land deeded by a successful rancher who loved monkeys. He gave the city 12 acres of land in 1949 with one rule–there must always be 50 monkeys on it! That’s a tall order, especially in Santa Ana, ranking as the 4th most densely populated city in the U.S. of cities over 300,000.
To this day Santa Ana Zoo (santaanazoo.org) continues to house at least 50 monkeys, but you’ll also see anteaters, camels and more. As for the 50 monkeys rule–there are dozens of types of monkeys to see, including endangered species. If someone tells you it’s a jungle out there on Santa Ana Freeway (I-5), think about the similarities we share with our ancestors. Monkeys are very social animals–communication is key in getting along in large groups. They use vocalizations, facial expressions, and body movements to get their messages across–staring is a threat. Monkeys look down or away to avoid threatening other monkeys, thus preventing fights. Loud vocalizations are often chosen instead of fighting as a way to communicate (think about this the next time you hear someone yell!) Monkeys express affection, make new friends and make peace with others by grooming each other.