Imagine seeing the world through an animal’s eyes. What’s it like to be a crocodile swimming in a swamp, a monkey swinging through the branches or a stick insect camouflaged among leafy treetops? Being able to put yourself in an animal’s shoes — or rather, their legs, paws or fins — is essential to building empathy for wildlife, fostering the conservation-minded voters, teachers, parents, scientists and decision-makers of tomorrow. That’s why running, splashing, climbing and playing side-by-side with wildlife is the heart of the San Diego Zoo’s all-new experience, Wildlife Explorers Basecamp.
Playing in nature has a few extra benefits, too: exploring the world through play teaches resilience, creativity and self-confidence. There’s plenty to discover … just take a look at what’s in store throughout Jake’s Cool Critters, our new home for reptiles, fish and amphibians within Wildlife Explorers Basecamp.
Make Your Own Discoveries
In our one-of-a-kind learning lab, use microscopes with embedded touch displays to examine objects up close, from scales and nails to tiny bones. Add your own notes, stamps and drawings, then share your observations by emailing your findings to a friend.
Save Fijian Iguanas
Brightly colored Fijian iguanas look like tiny, scaly creatures from a fanciful medieval legend, but they are losing habitat, and some are illegally taken for the exotic pet trade. Our scientists take part in efforts to “head start” endangered Fijian iguanas to increase their chance of survival, raising hatchlings until they are large enough to avoid predators. With more than 125 young hatched here since 1981, we have the most successful breeding colony outside Fiji — and you’ll find them right in the heart of Wildlife Explorers Basecamp.
Learn from a Wildlife Care Specialist
Peer inside a window into our wildlife care specialists’ workspace to get a sneak peek at what it takes to protect wildlife each and every day. Check out the incubators used to help eggs hatch, and watch care specialists prepare reptile and amphibian diets. There’s never a dull moment!
Search for the giant salamander, axolotl and more underneath a rippling blue light installation. Sounds of a bubbling river will make you feel like you’re underwater! Stop by the nearby interactive touch screen table to chat with volunteers and play conservation games, learning how our scientists work to save wildlife worldwide.
Prevent Wildlife Trafficking
Wildlife trafficking — the poaching and sale of live animals and plants, or their parts — is a multi-billion-dollar global industry frequently responsible for wildlife population declines and disease outbreaks. Zoo education and summer school groups will have the opportunity for a special experience where they will learn about wildlife trafficking and how San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance works to prevent the trade. One way we’re doing our part? Some of the animals that live at Wildlife Explorers Basecamp were confiscated from traffickers by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and brought to us for a lifetime of expert care.
Building Wildlife Empathy Beyond Basecamp
Parents and caregivers play a critical role in helping develop empathy, and we hope your Basecamp experiences inspires you to continue the empathy workout together long after you’ve left the Zoo’s front doors. Model how to “bee kind” to wildlife, especially those that don’t usually get much love, like insects, spiders, and snakes. Work together to make your yard welcoming to all wildlife by planning pollinator-friendly and native plants. Or snuggle up and put on an episode of Amazing Wildlife — our kid-friendly podcast that provides a behind-the-scenes look inside San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work to save wildlife worldwide.
No matter how you go about it, we hope you continue finding ways to strengthen empathy for wildlife together — inspiring wildlife explorers to transform into future conservationists.
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