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In the early 1900's, J.E. Prentice moved to Santa Ana with the vision that this part of California had great possibilities. He arrived as a horse and mule trader. Mr. Prentice later began citrus ranching and expanded his holdings. Within a few years, he became one of Santa Ana's wealthiest men. In 1949, he donated 12 acres of his citrus ranch to Santa Ana for a park. With this donation, he stipulated that the city must keep at least 50 monkeys at all times.

Mr. Prentice loved animals, and always had a fascination with monkeys. He kept several on his back porch at his first home, and he and his wife would feed them and enjoy their antics from their kitchen window.

In the meantime, the city had realized the need for a park, and had formed the Santa Ana City Memorial Park Committee. They gladly accepted Mr. Prentice's generous gift and began preparations for the new park.

As Mr. Prentice was building his fortune, a young man, Jack Lynch, was growing up in Orange County. Young Jack spent most of his teen years collecting animals and learning about trapping and training birds and other animals of prey. Jack studied drafting to learn to design and build different kinds of cages. He frequently made trips into the desert to add to his growing collection of birds and reptiles.

When Jack Lynch heard of plans for Prentice Park, he immediately went to City Hall to ask for a job designing and building the cages for the animals. He was given a job that turned into his life's work.

Construction began, and the monkeys started to arrive. Although the park wasn't scheduled to open until March 8th, the children from the surrounding neighborhoods were already making daily visits after school to see Santa Ana's newest residents.

"My job," Jack recalled, "was construction, maintenance, and care and feeding of the animals at the park. I had to maintain the monkeys as efficiently as I could. I took care of the park and animals by myself on weekends and holidays, and a lot of other days."

Under Jack Lynch and other staff's constant care, the small Zoo began to grow. As the park's popularity grew, there was talk of a children's Zoo, and Jack envisioned an aviary. Jack suggested to one of the city leaders that Santa Ana needed a Zoological Society for support. With the help of Barbara Berton, the Santa Ana Zoological Society was born. Later, this group evolved into the Friends of Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ), which is the private fundraising arm that supports the Zoo. FOSAZ is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.

When the city declined to pay for the aviary at the Zoo, Jack mobilized volunteers, collected scrap lumber, and donated materials to get the job done. The Children's Zoo and the Jack Lynch Aviary became realities.

Rich in Southern California history, the Santa Ana Zoo began as the vision of J.E. Prentice. As the city has grown up around it, the Zoo remains an oasis full of wildlife and tropical beauty.

The Zoo receives over 270,000 visitors annually, and its staff and volunteers are committed to providing education and entertainment that makes the Zoo something that J.E. Prentice would have been proud to see. Jack Lynch put it just right: "I don't know what I would have done without this Zoo. I like it just like this. It's a casual little zoo..."
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