San Diego Wild Animal Park

By Jerilyn WatsonEvery year, more than one-million people from all over the world visit a huge animal park in the western state of California. More than two-thousand animals live there as they do in the wild. I'm Steve Ember.And I'm Shirley Griffith. The San Diego Wild Animal Park is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

The animals at the San Diego Wild Animal Park are not kept in small spaces. Instead, this park provides a large area where animals live in their natural environment. The park is a center for the care, reproduction and protection of rare animals. It also supplies animals to zoos around the world. The San Diego Wild Animal Park covers almost seven-hundred-thirty hectares of land. This area is home to more than four-hundred kinds of animals and thousands of plants and trees. By the end of your day here, you will have seen wildlife, plants and trees from many parts of the world.You enter the Wild Animal Park through an area called Nairobi Village. Here, colorful birds fly among flowers, water pools and bridges. Their calls and songs fill the warm southern California air.

In an area called the Petting Kraal, young visitors can see and touch baby animals being raised by human keepers. Gazelles -- similar to deer -- and members of the monkey family are nearby. The lowland gorillas are among the few left in the world. They are one of the fifty-one kinds of animals and birds in the park officially listed as threatened with disappearing from earth.

Today the lowland gorillas are gathered in a group. The two youngest are jumping around and climbing on each other and their mother. The tall male gorilla sits quietly. He appears to be thinking great thoughts.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Now you decide to take a fifty-minute ride on the Wgasa (wah-GAH-sah) Bush Line Monorail. From this open-air electric train you can see animals much as they live in the wild. They are divided into their natural living areas: eastern and southern Africa, the heart of Africa, the Asian plains and Asian waterholes.

People of all ages fill the train. The Monorail runs far above the animals so it cannot interfere with their activities. It moves slowly and quietly through hilly areas and valleys.

It is hard to decide where to look, because unusual plants, trees and animals are everywhere: Animals like the Indian Axis deer, a deer whose white spots are permanent. Or the Przewalski's (prezh-WAHL-skis) wild horse. This endangered creature from Mongolia looks like a modern horse. But this kind of animal has lived much longer.Children call out, "Oooh, look!" as the train moves near more groups of wild creatures. Down there are tall giraffes with their spotted bodies, extremely long necks and small heads. Over there are Grevvy's zebras, known for their beautiful thin stripes and large ears. Up ahead are domestic water buffalo. Their circular horns look as if an artist had designed them. Some of the young animals jump and run with their mothers. Other animals sleep under trees. Still others drink from water holes.After leaving the train, you decide to walk around. This way, you can get a closer look at animals you saw from the Monorail and see others as well. You pass by eucalyptus trees. Some of them are more than thirty meters high. The trees help provide shelter from the sun. They also provide the main food for koalas, animals that live in the trees in the wild. The koala looks like a child's toy bear. But it is not a member of the bear family. Many people think of koalas when they think of Australia.

Further on your walk, you see beautiful striped Sumatran tigers and big African and Asian elephants. An elephant show is held two times each day at the park. An elephant named Cha Cha performs the cha cha dance for the crowds. She is paid with vegetables.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))The San Diego Zoological Society operates the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the world famous San Diego Zoo. In the Nineteen-Fifties, the zoo's director, Charles Schroeder, created the San Diego Wild Animal Park. One of Mr. Schroeder's most important goals was to increase reproduction of rare animals born or kept in zoos. He wanted to increase the numbers of such animals in captivity to reduce demand for the animals in the wild.

He began by searching for land that would meet his needs. In Nineteen-Sixty-Two, Mr. Schroeder found just the right piece of land in the San Pasqual (pass-KWAHL) Valley, near the city of Escondido (es-con-DEE-doe) California.Mr. Schroeder wanted to design a park where people could see wildlife without threatening the environment for the animals. This is important because animals must feel secure to reproduce. An electric monorail train was chosen because it is quiet and does not cause air pollution, as other vehicles do. Later, several exhibit areas for walking were added to give visitors a closer look at the wildlife. The park opened to the public in Nineteen-Seventy-Two.One of the most difficult decisions facing the wildlife park is where to place the animals. Park officials have to work hard to get this right. They must study the conditions in which the animals live in the wild. And they also must learn which animals can live together peacefully. Sometimes they learn by trying and failing and trying again.

Nyalas (ny-AH-las), for example, are animals similar to antelopes. Nyalas normally live in the woods of South Africa. At one time they were placed in the South African animal area of the park. But they did poorly there. They needed a rocky area where they could hide their babies. So they were given a home in a wooded area along the side of a hill. They reproduce well there.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Babies are born every day at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Some of them are raised at the park's animal care center. This happens when their mothers reject them. Or, it happens when the baby animals are too weak to survive in the open air. And some young animals are raised in the care center to be sent directly to other zoos.

The park has been responsible for a number of first births of animals captured or raised by humans. For example, in Nineteen-Seventy, the first Formosan sika (SEE-ka) deer born in captivity was born at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The first birth of a bird called the Abyssinian ground hornbill outside the wild took place two years later.The best known reproduction program at the park is the California Condor Recovery Project. The California condor is the largest flying bird in the wild in North America. In Nineteen-Eighty-Eight, a baby condor called Molloko (mo-LO-ko) became the first such bird to be born in the park. Molloko's mother was also the first condor to begin a pregnancy while being cared for by humans.

Almost half of the California condors alive today were born at the park. Scientists released some of the birds into the wild in Nineteen-Ninety-One. Today the park continues to try to re-establish the condor in nature. The park opened a new area called Condor Ridge last month. It is home to rare and threatened birds, mammals and reptiles from North America. The area cost more than three million dollars to build.Park workers observe all the animals each day to make sure none are sick or injured. Sometimes they must rescue animals in trouble. Years ago, a sudden bad storm frightened a two-week-old giraffe. The animal fell into a water hole five meters deep. Giraffes do not swim, and the animal sank.

At first, two park workers could not find the baby giraffe. When they did, she was not breathing. They got her out of the water. They helped her breathe again. Then they found her mother, who began caring for her intensively. The keepers said the baby giraffe was very sick for two days. But she recovered. Perhaps if you look closely, you might see that giraffe today at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.