San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps Members Work With U.S. Navy to Protect Snowy Plover Nesting Area

Teens from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps hit the beach at Naval Air Station North Island this morning not for fun in the sun, but to assist in setting up protected nesting areas for the western snowy plover, a threatened shore bird. Conservation Corps members helped to install symbolic fencing – blue stakes connected by twine – around the snowy plover nesting areas on Breaker’s Beach, asking beach-goers to avoid the area during the birds’ nesting season. The volunteer project was spearheaded by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, at the invitation of the U.S. Navy.

“Today, we invited members of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps to assist us with fencing off 15 acres of nesting habitat for the western snowy plover on Naval Air Station North Island,” stated Tiffany Shepherd, Wildlife Biologist, Naval Base Coronado. “These teens are interested in protecting wildlife and we wanted them to learn about what the Navy is doing for snowy plover conservation, hoping to motivate them to stay passionate about wildlife conservation.”

SDZSP ConservCorp SnowyPlover webThe western snowy plover is a small shore bird found on beaches along the Pacific coast from Washington to California. The small white and gray bird measures about six inches long and lays its  eggs in small indentations in the sand, making it very difficult to see the nests. The birds incubate their eggs for 24 to 28 days, but will leave their nests when threatened by people. The snowy plovers decline is attributed to loss of nesting habitat and habitat degradation caused by expanding beach-front development and recreation, human disturbance and predation.

Naval Air Station North Island is committed to maintaining a productive and pristine habitat for the birds that is properly managed as to not lose military training or conservation value over the long term, and this goal has resulted in site protection and monitoring of the species. To assist with their conservation efforts, the Navy has hired researchers from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research to help monitor the birds’ habitat during their nesting season, March 1 through Sept. 15.

“Every day throughout the breeding season from March to September, our team members crisscross the nesting beaches, keeping an eye out for fresh eggs and newly-hatched chicks. We mark the new nests to track their progress through the incubation period,” said Katrina Murbock, research coordinator, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Applied Animal Ecology Division. “Having members of the Conservation Corps assist us with the fencing project today, allows us to provide the birds with the protected space they need to thrive and also allows the teens to feel proud they are contributing to a vital wildlife conservation project.”

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps and Zoo Corps offer teens the opportunity to make a difference for wildlife. Conservation Corps and Zoo Corps are hands-on programs for high school students interested in conservation, science, public speaking and community service. Members spend one day a month teaching Safari Park or Zoo guests about animals and sharing conservation stories through the use of artifacts, biofacts, props, interactive games, and other activities. A second day each month is spent performing hands-on conservation projects making a difference for wildlife, like the snowy plover nesting project they took part in today. For more information on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Conservation Corps program, visit sdzsafaripark.org.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.  The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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