Coming together for conservation

Courtney Dunn
August 26, 2022

Conservation issues have presented a major challenge to the world. But, when it comes to conserving wildlife we’re up for the task!

California condors were the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Thanks to a breeding program hosted by zoos, including the Santa Barbara Zoo, they have began to recover throughout their range.

New ideas to face growing challenges

Conservation issues have presented a major challenge to the science communication world. The challenge – how can we reach larger audiences to not only introduce more people to threatened animals but also educate them about issues and what they can do to help? While there have been many proposed solutions over the years, Zoolife has become the first to try this through a virtual zoo.

This has not been a small task, of course. It has required us to think outside of the box in more ways than one. Just like The Avengers came together to save the world, we have come together for conservation.

Johari, a Western lowland gorilla, peering over a ledge in her habitat at the Toronto Zoo. The Toronto Zoo provides 100% landfill free cell phone recycling services to help conserve gorillas and their habitats.

Finding the right partners

Before even thinking about how to grow a community or expand a team, every zoo needs animals – even virtual ones. This is where our partners come in. To ensure responsible animal experiences, Zoolife only partners with fully accredited non-for-profit zoos, sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers who demonstrate the highest standards in animal care.

This standard has led to us meeting some amazing organizations doing amazing things. One of our partners from this last year, the Santa Barbara Zoo, is a leader in the fight to save California condors. The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary helps rescue abandoned and unwanted reptiles while educating about their importance. Toronto Zoo, our first partner, is one of the most active organizations for saving our local Blanding’s turtles. But, that’s not all of them – Orana Wildlife Park, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary are fantastic leaders in conservation for the animals they care for.

The unique perspectives, stories, and projects our partners bring to Zoolife set up a wonderful foundation for a virtual conservation product.

Lucy, an American alligator, is one of several rescued reptiles that call the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary home. The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary is the largest reptile sanctuary in the United States.

Assembling the team

When building a product such as Zoolife, having team members with skills from diverse areas is incredibly valuable. For us, this means having people on the team who have an engineering background, people with marketing experience, and, of course, people who have worked in the zoo and aquarium world. The rounded perspective that all of these fields give a team have allowed us to accomplish great things in just the past year.

One of Zoolife’s latest product updates, closed captioning, increases the accessibility of Zoolife’s expert talks. The ability to switch camera views on some of our habitats gives the chance to see more of an animal’s area. Of course, the feeding time updates on the schedule also give a new perspective to our up-close and personal views of these amazing animals.

But, it isn’t just our team that has made this possible. Our growing community has helped tremendously along the way.

These three sleeping koalas are only a handful of animals recently joining Zoolife from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. As the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is dedicated to koala research, welfare, & conservation.

Building a community

You can find someone from every walk of life on Zoolife. There are teachers and students, kids and adults. Some found us through the need for relaxation while others sought out ways to stay connected to their favourite zoos from home. There are even keepers from our partner zoos who use the cameras as a way to monitor the animals while they are away.

Engaging with our community through daily talks and small chatter in the comments has helped us learn a lot about why people enjoy Zoolife. It has also helped identify bugs in record time, as our community provides active feedback for us to improve.

Marta, an Amur leopard, gazing up at the trees in her habitat at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Born on August 1st, 2021, the Zoolife community has watched Marta grown up via Santa Barbara’s cameras.

Science communication around the clock

Of course, any team for conversation wouldn’t be complete without its educators. Every partner recommends people from their organization who are a good fit for sharing their projects and updates. These people meet with the Zoolife team to learn more about us as well as how to host virtual talks to our community.

These nature experts, as we call them, also come from all walks of life. Many are volunteers who have dedicated countless years, even decades, in support of their zoo. Others are researchers who have done extensive field work protecting endangered species. Most recently, we have started bringing in outside guests – such as artists, influencers, and more – to show how anyone from any field can make a difference for wildlife conservation.

California sea lions soaking up the rays at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center was the first marine mammal rehabilitation facility in California.

Looking forward to the future

Saving endangered species is a complex issue that requires complex solutions. Although there are many ways of doing this, educating others is a great start. Our partners, hosts, team, and community members coming together for conservation has shown us making a change is possible. We cannot wait to see where we go together in the future.

A kiwi bird at Orana Wildlife Park searching for grubs in the leaf litter. Orana Wildlife Park is involved in the Recovery Programme for these remarkable birds, breeding for release back into the wild.

Want to help support Zoolife’s partners and learn about wildlife conservation from the comfort of your own home? Visit today to support them through a Zoolife subscription!