Fact Check


Is the San Diego Wild Animal Park's monorail named after a crude acronym?

Published Nov. 25, 2002


Claim:   The name of the San Diego Wild Animal Park's monorail was taken from a crude acronym.


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1994]

Some years ago, the famous San Diego Zoo opened a second, larger branch called the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The Park is built around an enormous open-field enclosure where the animals roam free. To see the animals, visitors ride on a monorail called the Wgasa Bush Line which circles the enclosure. Here's the true story of how the Wgasa Bush Line got its name.

They wanted to give the monorail a jazzy, African sounding name. So they sent out a memo to a bunch of zoo staffers saying, "What shall we call the monorail at the Wild Animal Park?" One of the memos came back with "WGASA" written on the bottom. The planners loved it and the rest is history. What the planners didn't know was that the zoo staffer had not intended to suggest a name. He was using an acronym which was popular at the time. It stood for "Who Gives A Shit Anyhow?"


Origins:   This explanation of the origin of the Wgasa Bush Line, a railway that carries visitors around the perimeter of the San Diego Wild Animal Park, has been circulating as both a joke and a legend ever since the park opened in 1972. Its truth is vouched for by many Wild Animal Park employees, past and present. Although apocryphal corporate lore


is often passed off as the truth from one generation of employees to the next, and minor details of accounts explaining how the name 'Wgasa' came to be adopted vary, we credit this one as true because, frankly, there is no other explanation. There are no competing claims that 'Wgasa' is actually a real word in a foreign language, or a name invented to sound like an African word, or just a randomly-selected string of characters that caught on. Everyone connected with the building of the San Diego Wild Animal Park (as well as reporters who covered it from the its planning states through its opening) gives the same origin for 'Wgasa,' as recounted in this example from a biography of Dr. Charles Schroeder, director of the San Diego Zoo and founder of the Wild Animal Park:

And what about that name? The story has become one of those eternal anecdotes that keeps popping up in newspapers and magazine accounts and even on the Internet, year after year after year.

The story is funny and a little unbelievable, but it's true. It started out as a joke after another long, tiring meeting at which [San Diego Zoo chief designer] Chuck Faust, [future zoo director] Chuck Bieler, and the usual gang were sitting with their clipboards and pencils, attempting to come up with a name for the monorail. They weren't having much luck. Everyone was tired and punchy.

Finally, as Chuck Faust tells it: "We were trying to decide on the name for the monorail. I scribbled down 'WGASA' on some plans. Everybody laughed because they knew what it stood for, but they loved it because it sounded African. We thought WGASA would blow over, but it actually stuck."

What did it stand for? Faust's scrawled letters were a popular acronym at the time that stood for 'Who Gives a S___ Anyway!"

Dr. Schroeder was in Czechoslovakia attending an international zoo conference. By the time he returned, the name had spread so fast that reporters were actually calling about it. Chuck Bieler answered the calls, and ever resourceful, he told them that it meant the "World's Greatest Animal Show Anywhere." That is still the best official answer.

But when that answer was tried on the director, Dr. Schroeder wasn't buying. With only a few days left before the opening of the Park, it was too late to change it, so he called in Chuck Faust and said, "Tell me exactly what 'Wgasa' means."

Faust was sure he was going to be handed his walking papers if he told the truth, but he did. "I told him exactly what it meant," Faust recalled, "and all he said was, 'I thought it was something like that.'"

The official versions of the story lack the legendary element that 'Wgasa' was mistakenly adopted as a name by people who had no idea what it meant (as Chuck Faust said, "everybody laughed because they knew what it stood for"), but by all available evidence, the gist of this tale is true.

Last updated:   31 May 2011


    Myers, Douglas G.   Mister Zoo: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Charles Schroeder..

    San Diego: Zoological Society of San Diego, 1999.   ISBN 0-911461-15-9   (pp. 225-226).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.