In the world of endangered animals, there’s not always a lot to cheer about. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the good guys, like the ones at the San Diego Zoo. While they are most famous for the saving of the California condor, which went from 22 to over 300 in the course of two decades of work, it’s not the only animal to benefit from their help.
Let’s make one thing clear: while debates about Sea World and its possible cruelty to animals rage on, no one should put the San Diego Zoo into that category. Rather than being a theme park working for profit like Sea World, the San Diego Zoo is a not-for-profit oragnization devoted to “saving species worldwide.”
It’s not a species most people think is in danger of extinction, but many species of iguanas have been threatened for a long time. The Caribbean Iguana is the most endangered lizard group in the world. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, several of the islands that make it up had had iguanas go extinct. But the San Diego Zoo has successfully bred those iguanas, and a remarkable 87 percent of those introduced back to the wild go on to surivive. (The pet iguanas in the United States are not Caribbean Iguanas but the very common green iguana.)
The near extinction of the Northern White Rhino has been all over the news, and the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park has one of the remaining four. Other species of rhino (there are four others remaining) aren’t safe, either. But with those species the conservation efforts have been far more successful. The San Diego Zoo alone boasts that they have added 92 southern white rhinos, 66 greater one-horned rhinos, and 13 black rhinos to the world. Unfortunately, the hunting of rhinos, while illegal, is once again on the rise; last year over a thousand were killed in South Africa alone.
Everyone loves giant pandas. Their cuddly bear appearance along with their generally placid nature brings out warm feelings in most of us. They don’t even have any natural predators to threaten them — except people. Bamboo thickets in China are being cut down at an alarming rate, destroying the food the pandas mostly rely on. The San Diego Zoo was the first place to sucessfully artificially inseminate a panda, who gave birth in 1999. She would ultimately give birth to six cubs. The eldest was released to the wild and has given birth to ten cubs herself. There are also now 62 panda preserves in China, up from four last decade. And yes, there’s still a panda cam at the San Diego Zoo.
So while it can look grim for the fate of animals some days, places like the San Diego Zoo give quite a few bright spots. And if you want to go see one of those condors, you should head to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where the captive ones currently reside. Live across the country? Then the San Diego Safari Park’s Condor Cam is for you.
(Photo of San Diego Zoo via Wikipedia/Cburnett.)