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Get Invited to Festival of Flight Tweet-up

Guests of our Reptilemania tweet-up got up close with our Galápagos tortoises and took home a free snake plush!

UPDATE: All spots for our Festival of Flight tweet-up have been filled! Follow us on twitter to be part of the next tweet-up.

If you follow us on Twitter, you know we like to hook up our followers with free stuff, but by far the best perk is our tweet-ups. Tweet-ups are special on-grounds meet-ups just for our social media followers, and they usually involve up-close animal interactions and presentations not available to other guests. For our Reptilemania tweet-up, guests got to touch one of our slithery animal ambassadors, feed our Galápagos tortoises, and take home a free snake plush. For our Koalapalooza tweet-up we tracked “koalas” (the plush kind) using the same equipment that our researchers use in the field, and got up close with a kookaburra and, of course, a koala.

We’ve also had tweet-ups at the Safari Park. During Butterfly Jungle, our tweet-up guests were granted access to the event through a closed-off side entrance, avoiding the line and enjoying a private presentation of a few creepy crawlies by the Park’s insect keeper. The Park’s Cheetah Run tweet-up was even sweeter. It offered guests the full VIP treatment, allowing them to watch the run from our special VIP viewing zone and meet a cheetah up close, which is something we normally charge $40 extra for!

Guests of our Cheetah Run tweet-up got the full VIP treatment

We also hold raffles and give away free stuff at most of our tweet-ups, with prizes ranging from animal plushes to tickets for super-awesome behind-the-scenes experiences. For example, at our most recent #AnimalStars tweet-up, we raffled off five panda adoption packages and one grand prize of four Backstage Pass tickets. Check out this stellar blog and video for more on our last tweet-up.

The best part about our tweet-ups is that they’re FREE with admission. If you’re a member, consider them a perk of your membership. As you may know, Festival of Flight is coming November 10 through 13, 2011. We had a tweet-up for last year’s event involving a guided tour of the Scripps’ and Owens’ aviaries by one of our bird keepers and up-close bird viewing, but we wanted to offer something even better this year. That’s why on Saturday, November 12, at 10 a.m., we’re letting you loose (with supervision of course) in our Backstage Pass flamingo zone for some up-close flamingo fun! You’ll also enjoy presentations of a few other feathered friends by our expert Backstage Pass trainers…but there’s a catch. Because of the limited space in our flamingo zone, we can only invite 23 guests to join us for this tweet-up. So how do you get an invite? Listen close. Make sure you’re able and willing to attend on Saturday, November 12, at 10 a.m. (Zoo admission required). Then follow us on twitter and tweet these exact words:

I want to go to the @sandiegozoo #FestOfFlight tweet-up for some #FlamingoFun!

The first 23 people who tweet the above will get a direct message from us with an invite to the tweet-up. If you want to bring a guest or your kids, let us know and we’ll try to make accommodations depending on space available, but no promises. We apologize for the limited space, but we’re super excited to introduce you to our beautiful winged friends. Now hurry and get tweeting!

Matt Steele is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Facebook Winner joins us in the Field.

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Facebook Winner Joins Us in the Field

From left to right: Facebook winner Jeff Williams, research technician Frank Santana, UC James Reserve Director Rebecca Fenwick

When we got to the gorgeous University of California James Reserve in the San Jacinto Mountains, the sun was high and the sky was a clear, deep blue. We lucked out. It was the perfect day to take our Facebook winner, Jeff Williams, with us into the field to take part in our mountain yellow-legged frog project. It was also apparent by the conversation we had in the two-hour car ride up to the mountains that Jeff was the perfect candidate to take with us.

An avid outdoorsman, Jeff’s passion for nature and the wildlife therein was palpable. It turned out that Jeff used to breed blue dart frogs, a hobby catalyzed by an encounter he had with wild frogs in Costa Rica. “I thought it was amazing to come across these fluorescent spots of light in the forest all around you,” he said. A love of wildlife also runs in Jeff’s family. After learning that meat came from animals at the age of four, his daughter chose to be vegetarian. “It’s kind of a good thing because it forces us to eat healthier,” Jeff said.

Jeff was also very interested in the project, and asked Frank Santana, our lead field technician, a million questions about mountain yellow-legged frogs (MYLF) and their plight. We learned that the chytrid fungus is the main reason for the frog’s alarmingly rapid decline. The fungus affects the keratin layer of skin and impairs the frogs’ ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide through their skin, resulting in a slow suffocation. The species also faces threats from pollution and introduced predators like brown and rainbow trout. I also learned that historically there were 160 populations of MYLF in the region, now there are just 9. In fact, 33% of all amphibian species worldwide are threatened by extinction, with threats from habitat loss, pollution, introduced species, and chytrid. This knowledge gave our work renewed gravity and purpose in my mind.

When we broke off the beaten path toward the wild stream where we had released about 500 critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles earlier this year, it was clear that we were in for an adventure. Soon we were climbing over fallen logs, thrashing through dense foliage, and wading in knee-deep water. Our goal was to hike upstream in search of tadpoles that may have dispersed from their original release pools. Jeff didn’t get off easy. We put him to work searching for tadpoles and measuring the length, width, and depth of certain pools, and he gladly indulged us. He was an important part of the team for a day. He even brought some useful equipment with him, like a super-small, super-bright LED flashlight that really came in handy for searching dark pockets of water. In fact, many of the pictures we captured of tadpoles wouldn’t have come out without Jeff shining his flashlight in the water.

After a few hours of searching the stream we had yet to find tadpoles, even with the help of UC James Reserve Director Rebecca Fenwick. It wasn’t until we got to the most upstream release pool that we saw about five tadpoles, which believe it or not is a good sign, since tadpoles face threats from many predators in the wild. It was an incredible feeling to finally spot the little guys. “After all that work it’s good to see that they’re still there and hopefully they’ll start to see some success,” Jeff said. I think we can all agree.

It was an absolute pleasure having Jeff along with us. We appreciated his help and had an awesome time “doing science” with him. Like our facebook page for a chance to fill Jeff’s shoes and ride along with us into the field for our cactus wren project.

Matt Steele is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Summer SCVNGR Safari.

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Hollywood Christmas Parade

Jan Seeley rode in the Safari Park “float” in the Hollywood Christmas Parade after winning our Facebook contest. Jan has been a frequenter and loyal fan of the Safari Park since it opened and even did her rehab for her double knee replacement surgery by walking through the Park regularly.

On November 23rd I received a Facebook message from Matt Steele, the Social Media Planner for the San Diego Zoo. A few days earlier I had entered a contest on the San Diego Zoo’s facebook to tell why I would like to ride shotgun in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s entry at the Hollywood Christmas Parade. I read some of the other entries and thought they sounded much better than mine, so I didn’t give it much thought after that.

I was so surprised when I received the message giving me the particulars for the Parade, and that I would be riding in the cab of the Photo Caravan truck. I had to read it twice before I realized I had actually won! What a wonderful surprise.

I was scheduled to meet the crew on Sunday at 10:00 am at the Safari Park, but took a short detour to visit the new cheetah cub first (see post Spotted Bundle of Fur), and is he ever cute. Anyway, I met up with the crew as scheduled and once the van was loaded up we set off for Hollywood.

We arrived in Hollywood and found our way to the celebrity red carpet location, where we unloaded gift bags for all the celebrities, which was pretty cool. Everything was beautifully decorated in reds and greens, there were make-up artists working, and the dressing room for the Grand Marshal was all set up. By the time we had checked out the red carpet area the rest of the crew were beginning to arrive, so we all went to the staging area to decorate the truck for the parade.

It was really fun watching everything get decorated and come together. The Photo Caravan truck was decorated with wreaths and had a rhino statue climbing on the cab. Then our own special cheetah celebrity, Amara, arrived and took her place on the back of the safari truck. I think she thought the people were all there just for her entertainment.

The Safari Park crew with Amara, our 2-year-old cheetah animal ambassador

It was great fun watching the people watching the parade. They waved, smiled, and cheered us on when they saw the San Diego Zoo Safari Park truck with the rhino on top. And then they saw the cheetah and  their faces change from smiles to wonder that there was a “real live cheetah” on the truck. The celebrities might not agree, but I think Amara was the real star of the show!

The whole day was great, it was a long, cold, windy day, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thank you so much everyone for such a great opportunity, it’s something I will always treasure. The whole crew was fantastic and made sure I was well taken care of.

Jan riding shotgun in the Photo Caravan truck

If you don’t frequent the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park, you should, and if you have never been, you need to go. We have the best zoo in the whole world and it’s a wonderful magical place to visit.

Jan Seeley

Note: You can watch the parade on Friday, December 10, at 8 a.m. on the Hallmark Channel, and on Friday, December 10, at 8 p.m. on the Hallmark Movie Channel. The parade will also be syndicated throughout December, playing at various times and dates depending on your area. Check your local listings.