Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 11:19 am | Fair 58º


Animal Artwork by Former Zoo Director, Ted McToldridge, on View at Santa Barbara Zoo

A painting of two lions by Ted McToldridge. Click to view larger
A painting of two lions by Ted McToldridge. (Santa Barbara Zoo photo)
Ted McToldridge Click to view larger
Ted McToldridge (Santa Barbara Zoo photo)

Many of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s most recognizable animal residents and some other wild creatures are the subjects of a new exhibit of paintings by the Zoo’s Director Emeritus Edward “Ted” McToldridge, on view from Jan. 9, 2016, through May 5, 2016, in the Zoo’s Volentine Family Gallery, located in the Discovery Pavilion.

The paintings in “TED: Artwork by Edward ‘Ted’ McToldridge” are also for sale, with proceeds benefiting the Zoo. The exhibit is free to view with Zoo admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 

When Asian elephants Little Mac and Sujatha arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo from India in 1972, McToldridge, the zoo's first director, was there to greet them.

Now, 44 years later, his painting of Little Mac is on view in the zoo’s art gallery, along with those of the zoo’s lions, snow leopard, giraffes, amur leopard and more.

McToldridge began his association with the property as a volunteer when it was called the Child Estate. He was hired as park superintendent at age 31 and remained in charge of the zoo from its opening in 1963 until his retirement in 1997.

“Ted is perhaps the person who has done the most to shape the Zoo, from designing early exhibits, to acquiring animals, to creating the landscape design still enjoyed today,” said Wendy Campbell of the zoo’s Marketing Department, who serves on the Gallery Exhibits Committee.

McToldridge has been painting and sketching since he was a boy in English boarding school and eventually studied industrial design in London. His interest in animals also began with a collection of hedgehogs he cared for while growing up there.

The former zoo director prefers oils and watercolors as his media of choice, sometimes sketching and, when he feels ambitious, painting.

He loves watercolor, but finds oil is “more forgiving, because you can paint it over.”

His wish is for the zoo to continue to teach young people about the wonders of nature and instill a sense of awe with a dedication to action.

“I love painting animals because they always teach me something more every time I do,” he says.

The exhibit also includes paintings and watercolors of species McToldridge encountered on his many international travels, including cheetah, jaguar, tiger, panda and zebra.  

“TED” opens Saturday, Jan. 9, with a free artist reception at 6 p.m., at which drinks and snacks are available for purchase, as are the paintings with prices ranging from $400-500. 

A talk by local photographer Ralph Clevenger will follow, in which he will share stories and photos from his trek to the far North, where he witnessed polar bears in the icy tundra of Churchill, Canada. 

“Journey to the Land of the Ice Bear” is $6 per person, $5 for Santa Barbara Zoo members. Tickets are available at the door or online.

For more information or to purchase tickets for zoo events, visit

Julia McHugh is the director of public relations for the Santa Barbara Zoo.

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