Conservation Through Breeding

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Here I am feeding some giraffes at the Wild Animal Park.

Zoo InternQuest is a career exploration program for high school students. Read the Zoo InternQuest Journal and view the Zoo InternQuest Photo Journal.

The San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park has been one of the most successful breeding facilities in the country and, in some cases, in the world. The Park started off as a breeding facility for the San Diego Zoo, but they decided that the Park was too special to be kept a secret, so they opened it up to the public. The Park, as we all know it now, is both a wonder to Southern California and a renowned breeding facility.

 

There are many species that have bred at the Park that have had very little breeding success in other places. The Wild Animal Park is one of the most successful breeding facilities around for Southern white rhinos, Indian rhinos, giraffes, and cheetahs. They are also highly successful at breeding almost everything else that lives there. Their ability to breed so many animals so well is largely due to the way the Park is designed. It has huge enclosures that allow the animals to feel like they are in a much more natural setting and they are able to interact with other species that they would encounter in the wild, including smelling predators from across the Park. These special conditions have led to animals breeding much more successfully and to the Park’s golden reputation.

The Zoo and the Park are part of many Species Survival Plans (SSPs), so they are regularly shipping and receiving animals to and from other zoos and facilities. They are both conservation-minded places so they trade animals to increase the genetic variety of the animals in their collection and the collections of other zoos. The Park has been highly successful in breeding and many of their animals are in high demand by other zoos. So not only are they helping conserve endangered species by providing such realistic and stimulating enclosures, but they also help the species by improving their genetic diversity here and elsewhere.

The Wild Animal Park has always been incredibly unique because one feels like they are peering into the wilds of Africa and Asia. But little do guests know that the realistic enclosures were never intended to make them happy, that was a mere afterthought. Their true purpose was to create an environment where animals felt like they were at home enough to act like wild animals. The success rates of breeding for endangered species and the overall health and happiness of the animals is testimony enough to the fact that the Park has accomplished their goal.

Elise, Conservation Team

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