One of the great benefits of working for San Diego Zoo Global is that it gives employees the opportunity to explore other positions in the organization. For some of us, we can go on loan to other departments to help out during busy times. Although I am a panda narrator at the Zoo, for about three years now during Spring Break weeks I have had the great opportunity to work at the Safari Park and help give Africa Tram Safari and Rolling Safari tours. The best part of this process is learning about the different conservation programs that we are doing on grounds at the Park and letting our guests know that by coming to the Park they have helped us in all of our endeavors.
On the Africa Tram Safari, some of the first animals our guests see are the South African cheetahs. The Park has 1,800 acres, so we have space for a cheetah breeding facility where we have welcomed over 130 cheetah births. Many of our cheetahs born here become ambassadors for their species and go to other zoos to help bring awareness to their plight in the wild.
One of the most famous animals at the Park is the southern white rhino. In the early 1900s, the rhinos were hunted for their horns to the point where there were less than 500. For years, the practice in zoos was to put a male and a female rhino together and wait for them to breed. We now know that southern white rhinos are social animals, and the females like to be in a herd to help protect their babies. They won’t even come into heat unless they have that social group! Right now we have a male at the Park chasing the girls around, trying to court. The funniest thing about these animals is that if a male wants to court a female, he has to get the approval of the rest of the herd!
On the Rolling Safari Tours, our guests get to ride on a Segway X2 while getting to see the Asian animals that are not out for general viewing, such as the greater one-horned rhino, Przewalski’s horse (an extremely rare wild horse), Indian gaur (one of the few wild cattle left), and the Arabian oryx (an animal that was extinct in the wild but was brought back due, in part, to the Safari Park’s breeding efforts).
Taking a Safari Park tour is a great way to really see how involved San Diego Zoo Global is with conservation. Every tour lets you get extra information about what we do, our mission, and how you have helped and can continue to help as you leave the Park. I think the most exciting thing for some is seeing the new babies born. Since the Park opened in 1972, over 20,000 animals have been born here, and we help the scientific community by sharing our knowledge of animal behavior, successful techniques to secure breeding, and successful animal management.
If you have the time, please come check out the Zoo’s sister facility, the Safari Park. Watch these animals interact with each other in the large, open exhibits, and see animal behavior like you’ve never seen before.
Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Our Growing Takin Calves.