On World Wildlife Day, March 3, we annually celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. WWD reminds us of our responsibilities to our world and the lifeforms we share it with. Travelers throughout the globe understand the enormity of this mission.
San Diego Zoo Global, one of the many enterprises that work tirelessly on behalf of animals, made a major announcement today in the world of conservation, showcasing their new brand: the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
We spoke with Paul Baribault, President and CEO of this newly named international, non-profit conservation organization.
Lea: What brought about this brand change?
Paul: We started 105 years ago, and we’ve pursued incredible conservation work, leading the fight against extinction, but now is the time to recommit. We have a unique set of skills to help wildlife, and the best way to accomplish this is to partner with other organizations and celebrate that alliance in our brand.
Besides San Diego Zoo Global, who’s in the alliance?
Our team has over 200 conservation partners and more than 500 care specialists. We work together across three countries and six continents, as the first stop for species facing extinction.
Which are some of those species facing extinction?
For many species the situation is urgent. Unless immediate action is taken it’s believed that three species of rhino, both species of orangutan, amur leopards, five species of dolphin, both species of gorilla, coral reefs and hawksbill turtles will be gone within a decade. Right now, there are only two female northern white rhinos left on the planet.
What do you feel is accelerating this situation?
Factors including climate change and wild-life trafficking. As populations increase, there’s a greater impact on forests and oceans.
Are zoos or conservancies able to help?
Yes. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park we’re pioneering with artificial insemination to bring back southern white rhinos. And we have two newborns! It’s exciting, but we’ll only be successful if we can bring back an entire herd.
In northern Kenya at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, we partner with a community-led organization on behalf of orphaned animals. We need to protect the animals thoughout the world, and that conservation group invited us to help.
I know that you protectively care for zoo animals as well, and I read that they are also at risk in this time of pandemic.
The gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park had recently contracted COVID-19. But thanks to the concern of the alliance, the animals are now vaccinated with a recombinant purified spike protein that originated from a limited supply strictly intended for nonhuman use. We remain vigilant, as our zoo and safari park are both now open.
As someone who travels the world, can you share some of your favorite animal experiences?
One, of course, is the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti in East Africa. Millions of animals showcasing what a thriving ecosystem looks like. There’s no experience like it on earth.
Another standout for me is when the Okavango Delta in Botswana floods and brings the region to life. This leads to magnificent elephant migrations. It’s simply magnificent how life thrives there as the seasons move back and forth.
A favorite travel memory, in Alaska, was when I was walking with brown bears only a few feet away. You realize their power in the wild. On the other hand, there are the Panda Reserves in China, which we’ve been supporting for decades.
One of the best of all experiences — for any traveler — is going on safari with a conservationist, learning about the wildlife and learning about ecosystems.
What about people who can’t travel?
There are many ways to enjoy and learn about animals beyond zoos. It’s important to learn about wildlife on webcams, and with onsite and online interpretive elements. Our website showcases all of our work.
Thank you Paul, on behalf of travelers and the endangered animals of the world. And congratulations on the vital work the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance will continue to perform in the years ahead.