Today is Endangered Species Day, and I wanted to take a minute to reflect on that via some thoughts and pictures from the San Diego Zoo and it’s sister the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
A Different Sort of Zoo
For those that have never visited the San Diego zoo, or the Safari Park, a little explanation is needed, in particular, why this post makes since for a day related to raising awareness of endangered species.
If you visit one or both, you will see amazing things, in an amazing setting, hosted by an organization that uses your entry fees (and the price of the $13 craft beer you will undoubtedly buy) to help save endangered species from extension.
For a long time, the San Diego Zoo has been a leader in preventing extension and in protected species from reaching the point where they are even endangered. The San Diego Zoo and Safari park are the best in the world, full stop.
I remember watching a PBS documentary as a kid about their work to save the nearly extinct California Condor. I remember thinking that it was a tragedy that any species was at that point. The next 30 years of my life have shown me how bad things really are. But, for the condor, thanks in large part to the San Diego Zoo, there is hope. Over the last 30 years they’ve brought the population back from 22 individuals to just over 200 hundred today.
The park breeds a lot more than California Condors and is involved is many of the global fights to save creatures human activity and climate change are driving towards extension. That is one of their core missions in fact.
Rhinos & Friends at the Safari Park
The Safari Park is much more open than the main zoo, and was (and still is) ground breaking in many ways. It pioneered the idea of habitats that seem to be open without visible walls or fences. The main zoo has some of this too, but it’s much more confined.
At the safari park, there is a very large African savanna area with many of the African non-predators co-existing as they would in the wild. There are rhinos next to giraffes and gazelles and wilder beast.
The zoo has captive breeding programs for many of these species as well, providing a pool of protected creatures not subject to poaching to satisfy the “folk medicine” needs of some cultures. It also protects species from rich individuals that think money gives them the right to collect any trophy they want.
One of the best parts of the Safari Park is that you can get close to some of these animals (for a price of course).
The zoo setting helps connect humanity (that’s us!) to the creatures we are so rapidly wiping out ( 🙁 ). Part of their mission is to create situations where we can have direct, but safe, interactions with wild creatures from around the globe. That connection is key to motivating people to care about creatures they might otherwise never see in person.
Safari Park from On High
It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the place from the ground. Luckily, the Safari Park offers a balloon “safari” (they like to theme everything safari) that gives a great perspective on the entire park. It illuminates the scope of some of the habitats it hosts.
The Elephant Habitat
The Savanna Habitat
Oh and Cheetahs
I’d be failing my duties if I didn’t mention the cheetahs. I have an entire blog post about seeing them run. They breed them as a backstop against declining wild populations.
What else to Say?
I could say a lot more. I feel a little like maybe I’ve suggested the main zoo isn’t as good, but that is not true. It’s much more dense. It has wonders to see also. In many ways, I like it better.
So, on this World Endangered Species Day, here are some more images from both zoos of the amazing creatures they are working to protect and that they let you get close to.
I could add 100s more, especially of birds. Both zoos are amazing. If you find yourself in the San Diego area (or if you are looking for somewhere to go, especially with kids of any age (0-120 years), visit both zoos. You won’t regret it.