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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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Biomimicry Looks at Snakes

Can tree snakes inspire biomimics?

Biomimicry and flight go way back. Leonardo da Vinci, and others who came after him, studied avian flight to learn how to get humans off the ground and into the air. Unfortunately for Leo, his machines didn’t fly. But eventually the Wright brothers got the proper principles down, and now we have cargo planes that can transport everything from every-day commuters to endangered rhinoceroses. But there is always room for improvement, and now biomimics are looking to an unlikely candidate to study flight—snakes!

Now, of course, snakes don’t really fly per se; they actually glide. But they still utilize the same principles of lift and drag that govern bird flight. “Flying” snakes are unique among the gliding creatures such as flying squirrels and flying fish because they lack the extra membranes that these other organisms use for gliding. Instead, these animals flatten their bodies while in the air and slither as a snake would if on the ground. In effect, their whole body becomes one big wing.

Scientists have been awarded funding to better understand how paradise tree snakes in southeast Asia are able to glide long distances from tree to tree. Where did this funding come from? The U.S. Department of Defense. How exactly the United States is going to use this knowledge is yet unclear; it is purely an informational study at this point.

On that note I ask, What would you make that’s inspired by a “flying” snake?

Dena Emmerson is a biomimicry research assistant at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Butterfly Sparks Industry Revolution.

Read more about biomimicry and the San Diego Zoo.

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Super Easy Trapeezee

I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my life, including jumping off a lot of very high places into water of questionable depth. I’m talking no frills, no fancy tricks, just run, jump feet first, and pray for the best. Sometimes it worked out fine, other times not so much. Heights are no problem for me, but being nimble and lithe from up high has never been my strong suit. Nevertheless, I always take opportunities to do amazing things from high places, so when I was asked to take part in the trapeze training class that we’ll be hosting during our Festival of Flight I jumped on it. I thought it would be a breeze. Swing back and forth a few times on a trapeze, maybe do a trick or two and go home, right? Wrong.

The first couple swings were no sweat. My colleague Yadira Galindo and I were strapped into a safety harness (which surprisingly didn’t help soothe the nerves) and instructed to swing back and forth a few times swinging our legs a certain way, and then do a back flip off the trapeze to land on the safety net. (Read Yadira’s post, Flight of a Scaredy Cat.) My first thought was: “Backflip? This isn’t going to be pretty.” Like I said, being nimble isn’t my thing. So off I jumped, trying to listen to the instructions being shouted at me and pay attention to what I was doing at the same time, and sure enough I choked and pulled off a half-backflip and landed on my head. Thankfully the safety harness and net cushioned my fall.

So I tried again, this time paying extra attention to the instructions being yelled from below and trying not to think too hard about what I was doing, and to my surprise I nailed it. Then I tried again and nailed it a second time, and so did Yadira. At this point I was thinking: “Alright, good job everyone, let’s go home.” Wrong again. Not only were we not done, but we had only just begun. We got back down, and our instructor took us over to a practice trapeze and my jaw fell flat to the floor when he demonstrated what we were going to do next. Apparently, we were about to get back up there and swing from our legs a bunch of times and link arms with someone else just like in the circus. Right…

I thought there was no way I was ever going to pull off all that stuff, especially with only about two minutes of trapeze experience under my belt. But I wasn’t about to give up, so I tried and tried again, and to my utter shock and disbelief, after the third try I actually did it! I couldn’t believe how much the instructors taught me to do in such a short time. Yadira couldn’t get her legs up on the bar every time, but she still looked like a pro before long.

It was by far one of the most adventurous things I’ve ever done, and despite the nerves, it was a ton of fun. The real payoff wasn’t the adrenaline rush, it was the sense of accomplishment I felt. Sure, it’s a rush to be up there flying around like a bird, and sure you can show your friends some awesome pictures and video of you doing incredible trapeze tricks, but it’s how you feel afterwards that’s the real reward. I recommend it to EVERYONE, regardless of age, fear, or lack of coordination. If I can do it, anyone can!

Trapeze class is for ages 5 and older. It costs $69 per person, plus Zoo admission. If you’re interested, read the information on Flying Trapeze for proper clothing, class times, and to reserve your spot as space is limited to 15 people. Enjoy!

Matt Steele is the social media planner for the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, A Day in the Life of a Safari Park Keeper.