The site was originally that of Africa, U.S.A.
The first Africa U.S.A. in California was created in 1962 as a 600-acre affection training compound by Ralph and Toni Helfer. It was located in Soledad Canyon near Los Angeles.
Ivan Tors first discovered Clarence, the cross-eyed lion, at Africa, U.S.A. and it inspired him to create the film Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion (1965) and the spin-off television series Daktari, which was partly shot on location there. Judy, the chimp and other star of the show, was also owned by Ralph Helfer.
A few other shows such as Cowboy in Africa, Gentle Ben, as well as an episode of Star Trek "Shore Leave" were also shot there. Helfer was providing both the location and the animals.
In January 1969, Africa U.S.A. was struck by a powerful storm over Soledad Canyon, which dropped large amounts of rainfall. The resulting severe flooding and mudslides in the canyons destroyed the compound, but only 9 of Helfer's 1,500 animals had drowned.
In 1987 the property was purchased and restored by actress Tippi Hedren and is now called Shambala Preserve.