Every Single Animal at the San Diego Zoo, Ranked for the 100th Anniversary

Animals. Some are amazing/majestic/adorable. Some are disgusting/terrifying/evil. This year, the San Diego Zoo is celebrating its 100th year of being home to both kinds, so we decided we'd do you the favor of ranking the animals from worst to best. We considered everything from survivability, likeability, skills that border on superpowers (e.g. the ability to generate a new tail after the other one's been severed), and more.

(Also, though the Safari Park's animals have their own good and bad qualities, it didn't open until 1972, and since we're celebrating the centennial, those animals won't make an appearance on this list.)

Anyway, we'll get to it. This is the internet, and we expect debate, so feel free to make your case for your favorite animal in the comments.

Dung beetle
Flickr/Andi Gentsch

131. Dung beetle

Dung beetles enjoy spending time outdoors (looking for poop), trying out new restaurants (where they serve poop), thinking about their life's purpose (to eat poop and lay eggs in poop), and crocheting.

130. Tarantula and 129. Spider

Spiders are pure evil. From the way they kill their prey (by trapping it, vomiting digestive fluid on it, and watching it die), to the fact that they have eight legs and more than two eyes, every spider everywhere should be killed slowly and deliberately, one shoe thrown across the room at a time. Challengers?

128. Scorpions

They're great survivors, unfortunately.

127. Caecilian

It's like if a snake and an earthworm had a baby, and that baby came out blind with tentacles.

126. Naked mole rat

Its dating profile would be something like: "I like to eat poop. I'm blind. And I can't go out with you because there's a queen in my colony that's got her eye on me (she's got her eye on a bunch of other dudes, too, it's kind of a bummer). But I will always love you."

125. Tasmanian devil

Worst dinner party guests ever. They had an awful childhood (there were 50 of them, only four survived, yada yada), they scream when they eat and rarely close their mouths, they smell, eat off of other people's plates… they're never being invited over again.

124. Rattlesnake

Biting San Diego house cats and hikers since... always.

123. Kingsnake

These reptiles also live in San Diego, sadly.

Giant African Millipeded

122. Giant African millipede  


121. Beetle


120. and 119. Both kinds of stick bugs


118. Ant


117. Ladybug


116. Bees

... boring and disgusting.

115. Hyena


114. Butterfly

Pretty? Yes. Worth wandering around the zoo looking for? Absolutely not.

113. Hummingbird

See No. 114.

112. Raccoon

Total jerks.

Flickr/Mechy Myagi

111. Lizards and 110. Salamanders


109. Toads and 108. Frogs

Frogs are better, in case you were wondering (which you probably weren't).

107. Iguana

They have excellent sight, which helps them detect predators at great distances. What's more amazing is that anything would actually want to eat this disgusting creature.  

106. Bowerbird

If you're in the market for an intricate nest of sticks that took forever to build, the bowerbird's nests… AREN'T FOR SALE. What's wrong with you?!

105. Bali myna  

It's Bali's official bird, annnnd that's pretty much all it has going for it.

104-100. Kingfisher/Laughing kookaburra/Cockatoo/Ibis/Pelican

More birds...

99-95. Parrot/Secretary bird/Gouldian finch/Sociable weaver/Lorikeet

...we don't care about.

94-90. Stork/Kagu/Hornbill/Toucan/Macaw

You get it. 

89. Kiwi

He's the bird that's furthest away from being a bird. Therefore, we like him the best.  

88. Gila monster

Poor things. They're from Arizona.

87. Goat and 86. Sheep

"Let's go find the goats and sheep!!!!!" said no zoo-goer ever.

85. Wild cattle/Buffalo  

See logic from Nos. 86-87.

Prairie Dog
Flickr/Danny Huizinga

84. Prairie dog


83. Pronghorn

You know the classic tune: "Home, home on the range. Where the deer and the antelope play"? It was about these "American antelope." You're welcome.  

82. Mountain lion

Professional camping-trip ruiners.

81. Antelope

So they're like deer, but slightly different. And… they're brown. And… *falls asleep*.

80. Peacock

Way too into themselves.

79. California condor and 78. Andean condor

These scavengers poop on their own legs to cool themselves down and NO YOU SHOULD NOT TRY IT.

77. Komodo dragon

They're the world's largest lizard… They're cannibals… They're dragons that don't breathe fire… Not into it.

76. Warthog


75. Coconut crab

Massive, which makes them terrifying. But they also climb trees and pick and eat coconuts, which is kind of bad-ass.

74. Bird-of-paradise

The adult males have the most amazing colored feathers, which they fashion into expandable fans, twisted wires, air conditioners, refrigerators, hammers, and… (JK, only the first two things).

Boa Constrictor
Flickr/Carlos Deu

73. Boa

Final grade: B+. Marks against it for being non-poisonous, and pooping on us at that birthday party that one time.

72. Python

She's not a player. She just crushes (still-living animals) a lot.

71. Anaconda

During mating season, sometimes two to 12 male anacondas will try to mate with one female anaconda at the same time, resulting in a "breeding ball," and it's the stuff of nightmares.

70. Flamingo

They can stand on one leg for eternity, and we can only do it for like three minutes, so props.  

69. Camel

They're not spitting on you. Oh, no, no, no. They're throwing up on you…

68. Guanaco

These South American llamas don't need to drink any water, which is a pretty handy superpower.

67. Okapi

These relatives of the giraffe do need to drink water, and they have to splay their legs to reach the ground to get it, which seems wrong, evolutionarily speaking.  

66. Binturong


65. Singing dog

Double meh.

Flickr/Josh More

64. Takin

A national treasure of China, this wildebeest/sheep mix seems oh-so-wise, like if it opened its mouth, it would be to tell you the secrets of the universe. Or the exact day and manner in which you will die... which would not be as cool, obviously.

63. Galápagos tortoise and 62. African spurred tortoise

You would have a hard time breaking out of your shell, too, if it were attached to your spine.

61. Rock hyrax


60. Giant anteater

Thank you for all that you do.

59. Tapir

It's nose and upper lip are combined. Not exactly model material.

58. Wombat


57. Kangaroo


56. Honey badger

Honey badger don't care. Honey badger don't even care that's he's had over 78 million views of his breakout video on YouTube. Honey badger's too good for that sh*t.

55. Harpy eagle

Looks like it's going to peck your eyes out at any moment.

54. Crowned eagle

See No. 55.  

Steller's Sea Eagle

53. Steller's sea eagle

She's the heaviest known eagle, which is probbabbbbbly because she really overdid it during that last salmon run...  

52. King cobra

Rebellious… Dangerous… Snake ladies, stay away.

51. Echidna

"Echidna!" "Gesundheit!"

50. Kinkajou


49. Serval

People have been known to breed them with domestic cats to make savanna cats to keep as pets. We have feelings about this.

48. Fossa

Has multiple names but prefers to be called "fossa," because its scientific name means "hidden anus."

47. Tree pangolin

It's pointy, nocturnal, and wants to be left alone. Like a scaly Edward Scissorhands.

46. Fennec fox

Ears on ears on ears...

45. Meerkat

Meerkat life is basically an underground version of The Godfather. But instead of shooting each other with machine guns, these warring families run at each other to the death, which seems worse somehow...

44. Mangabey

The female's buttocks swell when she's ready to breed. So there's that.

Colobus Monkey
Flickr/Eric Kilby

43. Colobus

Pluses: he's rocking the permanent-tuxedo thing. Minuses: he doesn't have any thumbs, and we know we'd be lost without ours, so…

42. Spider monkey

Again with the lack of thumbs…

41. Lynx

Three words: epic cat beard.

40. Armadillo

Pluses: it has one of the coolest means of evasion around (rolling away from its predators). Minuses: it looks like a mole shoved into a waffle cone.

39. Sloth

A sloth can eat, sleep, mate, and give birth upside down. This dude isn't lazy. He's crazy-talented.

38. Mandrill

… aka "rainbow butt."

37-35. Langur/Macaque/Siamang

Other members of the opposable thumb club.

34. Fishing cat

It taps its paw on the water to simulate insect movement to attract fish, which shows A) how clever it is, and B) how stupid fish are.

33. African penguins

Their coats are oh-so-fashionable, a classic black-and-white that will never go out of style. But their timeless fashion sense is offset by a major fault: these South African birds bray like a donkey, and it's awful.

32. Maned wolf

Their pee smells so much like weed that the Rotterdam Zoo once called in police to try and sniff out a pot smoker. So next time you get caught smoking weed in a public place, just blame it on the maned wolf.

Gray Wolf

31. Gray wolf

What it lacks in color, it makes up for in everything else.

30. Amur leopard

They're not from the Sahara, they're from the Russian far east, and they'd appreciate it if you'd check your stereotypes.

29. Guenon

At the Zoo, these guys are roommates with otters, and when they play together, it's the best exhibit. Hands down.

28. Reindeer

What's the difference between a caribou and a reindeer? One was fortunate enough to be included in Christmas folklore. Also, how about those antlers?! They're like a bone nest covered in skin that fall off and grow back every year. What is that about?!?!

27. Aye-aye

You'll probably never see one of these lemurs, because they're nocturnal. But that might be a good thing, because in Madagascar, they're considered to be a symbol of death.

26. Hedgehog

Curled up into itself, it looks like a far more adorable sea urchin. And actually, hedgehogs were called "urchins" at one point, inspiring the name of the spiky sea creature. You have been learned.

25. Ring-tailed lemur

And the best tail award goes to…

24. Red-collared lemur

And the best collar award goes to (we don't want him to feel left out)...

23-21. Jaguar/Leopard/Ocelot

Way too cool to be cats.  

20. Crocodile

So old.

Andean Spectacled Bear
Flickr/Tambako The Jaguar

19. Andean spectacled bear and 18. Sloth bear

Automatically cool because they're bears.

17. Orangutan

Introspective. While the chimp is at the bars on a Friday night, the orangutan is at home watching reruns of Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday.

16. Brown bear


15. Capybara

Capybaras are like the chill, good-looking ambassadors of the rodent world. We want to simultaneously hug the capybara and ask him if he'll be on our trivia team. He is an all-star.

14. Otter

Playas gonna play (by building slides on rivers out of mud, not by two-timing their significant others and such).

13. Hippo

A group of hippos can be called a "bloat," a "pod," or a "siege." Why you would call them a "bloat" or a "pod" when you can call them a "siege" is beyond us.

12. Sun bear

The bibs around their necks, legend says, represent the rising sun. Animals with legends > animals without legends.

11. Pygmy marmoset

Too. Much. Cuteness. You should probably watch this video.

Flickr/Stefan David

10. Giraffe

Impractical AF. We love them, anyway.

9. Lion

Legend has it that in 1916, when San Diego Zoo founder Dr. Harry Wegeforth was passing by, he "heard the roar of caged lions that were a part of the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, and decided then and there that San Diego was ready for a zoo and convinced the city to follow his lead" (source). Would there be a zoo without these very famous, very majestic animals? Who knows.

8. Tiger

"Terrible Tigers" or "Pink Flamingos." Whose kindergarten soccer team would you rather be on?

7. Koala

Koalas are cute, but they make some seriously poor life choices. They feed their children poop, they're asleep almost all the time (show some more ambition, please?), and when they actually are awake, there's a good chance they're seeking out carnal romance with some hot koala in the next tree over, but they don't use protection. Koalas are riddled with chlamydia! (Up to 90% infection rates in some areas of Australia). So yes, koalas are cute. They're also misguided.

6. Polar bear

They evolved 1-3 million years ago, and now they're in serious danger of going extinct due to global warming. *Sobs* *Proceeds to eat entire tub of ice cream*

Gorilla stare
Flickr/Patrick Bouquet

5. Gorilla

A temper tantrum never looked so good.

4. Giant panda

They'd be higher on this list if they weren't so bad at being animals. First, they have no interest in mating. Second, they're tired all the time because their food source (bamboo) is lame and nutritionally deficient. Get it together, Bai Yun. We want you around for awhile.

3. Bonobo

They're our closest relatives (along with the chimpanzee), and unlike us, they're really, really nice. They’ve evolved to avoid conflict at all costs, and are thought to be better Good Samaritans than humans, doing random acts of kindness, etc. Thanks for making us look bad.

2. Elephant

Just lumbering around for millions of years proving how much better (and smarter) they are than us. 

Red Panda
Flickr/John Sonderman

1. Red panda

Like a cross between a fox, a raccoon, and a bear, the red panda's cuteness knows no bounds. Even its defense mechanism -- standing on its hind legs to look intimidating -- is adorable. They're terrible at surviving, but hey, nobody's perfect. We like you just the way you are, red panda. Never change.

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Natalie Holtz is a writer from San Diego who has many a fond memory of the Zoo, and thinks they do great things for animals (the Zoo did not pay her to write that). Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @natalie_holtz.