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San Diego Zoo reimagines education with new Wildlife Explorers Basecamp

Prairie Dog at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers Basecamp
Posted at 5:44 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 19:26:43-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Eight years in the making, the San Diego Zoo is finally putting the finishing touches on its newest attraction, dubbed Wildlife Explorers Basecamp. The 3.2-acre area replaces the old Children's Zoo.

“As someone who’s been able to be on the ground floor of the design and the planning, it’s amazing to see it come to life," said the Zoo's associate curator, Nicki Boyd.

Designers wanted to rethink the way an area geared toward children could be used to help educate the next generation of conservationists. “Well, the old Children’s Zoo, I always said, was like a mini-zoo within the zoo. It didn’t have a lot of play elements for children. So we wanted to do a lot of parallel play while creating empathy for wildlife," Boyd said.

The Wildlife Explorers Basecamp aims to have play and interactive activities available to match the various animal and plant species found in the various habitats, including forest, marsh, and desert ecosystems.

For an example, children can watch a fennec fox run and climb through its desert habitat. Right next to it, is a play area with boulders and a hillside for climbing.

A woodlands habitat for lemurs and monkeys has a large tree, complete with rope bridges for children to scamper across. And a burrow for naked mole rats has a tunnel for children to climb through.

“They’re going to get to play and they get to learn along the way and they probably won’t even know it," said Boyd.

Designers also utilized technology to help spark visitor's imaginations. Many of the indoor exhibits have interactive screens and games.

And there's an extraordinary level of details. An exhibit on bees is built to look like the inside of a hive. Not only can visitors see the bees at work making honeycomb, the buzzing sound of the bees reverberates through the room, which also smells like honey.

Wildlife Explorers Basecamp at the San Diego Zoo opens to the public March 11.