SD Zoo News

Posted: October 5th, 2018 | Columns, Featured, News, SD Zoo News | No Comments

By Jules Shane

‘Kids Free Month’

Through the month of October, the San Diego Zoo welcome kids ages 11 and under to visit for free. Special events and activities for kids and adults include speaker talks, behind-the-scenes stories, and an African treasure hunt where kids can follow their map to find special wildlife treasures. The month’s activities will culminate for HalGLOWeen weekend on Oct. 26–28, After sundown, the zoo will glow with blacklights above the attractions and activities. Kids are welcome to wear costumes while they explore the area. Children must be accompanied by an adult. For show times and activity schedules, visit

Panda party

On Sept. 7, the zoo hosted a birthday party for 27-year-old, giant panda Bai Yun. Animal care staff and zoo patrons celebrated the milestones, contributions and memories of the matriarch. The bear’s habitat was adorned with colorful paper-mâché lanterns, scented burlap pillows, and present boxes and bags filled with her favorite fruits and treats, including panda bread birthday cupcakes.

Bai Yun at her birthday party

“We celebrate not only [Bai Yun’s] birthday, but also how far we have come in helping to raise awareness of the species, as well as what we can do to help them in the wild,” said senior zookeeper Kathy Hawk. “The collaboration between China and the U.S. has truly been a team effort to ensure that this beloved treasure from China will never become extinct.”

Bai Yun was the first panda to successfully give birth in the country, at a time when her species was on the brink of extinction. In her time with the zoo, Bai Yun has taught keepers and researchers a great deal about panda behavior, gestation, birth and parenting. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was able to reclassify giant pandas from an endangered to a vulnerable species in 2016. However, the IUCN noted in their report that panda breeding and habitat loss remain problems that need to be addressed. Currently, scientists count just under 2,000 wild pandas in their native habitat, with the majority being adults.

The giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo are on a research loan from China for conservation studies.

A hero remembered

Beloved conservationist and former board leader, Dr. Kurt Benirschke, passed away on Sept. 10. A recognized expert in pathology, reproductive medicine, and genetics, Dr. Benirschke served as the president of the Zoological Society of San Diego from 1997–2000. Dr. Benirschke combined his expertise with his passion for wildlife conservation to forever change the face of the San Diego Zoo. He is credited with founding the world’s first frozen zoo, a diverse collection of animal cells stored in liquid nitrogen in the hopes of preserving endangered species at the zoo. Despite lacking the technology to properly utilize the collection of cells, Dr. Benirschke once said, “You must collect things for reasons you don’t yet understand.”

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Marion; and his three children, Stephen, Ingrid and Rolf, who continue their father’s legacy of medical study and conservation.

Dr. Kurt Benirschke in the laboratory (Photos courtesy of San Diego Zoo)

For information about the worldwide fight against extinction for endangered animals, visit the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy at

Global press launch

San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG) announced the organization’s launch of a first-of-its-kind publishing division – San Diego Zoo Global Press. The division intends to publish and distribute a new line of zoological books, raise awareness for conservation of zoo species, and share the history of the zoo and its programs.

“Our goal for San Diego Zoo Global Press is to ignite a passion for wildlife in children and adults when they read the books,” said Douglas Myers, CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. “With more than 100 years of stories to share, we hope our books will motivate people to care about animals and our environment, and encourage them to take an active role in the fight to end extinction.”

To achieve this new endeavor, San Diego Zoo Global has partnered with specialty publisher Southwestern Publishing Group, which oversees the production and distribution of SDZG books. Books are currently being sold in retail stores at the zoo and online at Plans to widen distribution to other zoos and retailers are in the works.

— Jules Shane is the editorial intern at San Diego Community News Network, parent company of San Diego Uptown News. Reach him at

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