The largest gift ever to the zoo will help fund a $69 million project to reimagine its children's zoo, which opened in 1957, with the aim of offering visitors more opportunities to discover the natural world through play and better understand and empathize with wildlife. Scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2021, the new 2.3-acre Sanford Children's Zoo will feature more than a hundred species in four ecosystems — desert, tropical forest, temperate forest, and wetland marsh — that will include hands-on activities and digitally enhanced experiences. The zoo will include a treehouse, a waterfall and shallow stream that children can play in, and an artificial "walk-in" beehive from which they can observe a beekeeper tending a real hive.
"How do you get them to feel what it's like in a real stream, playing with real fish, rather than being in a building looking at a bunch of exhibits?" Christopher Zolezzi, an architectural technician who helped design the Children's Zoo, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We're going to be trying to use technology as much as we can to create that nature connection and that immersive wild feeling through play."
Sanford, who previously had donated $8 million to the zoo for projects like San Diego Zoo Kids, a television channel that provides children's programming mostly for medical facilities that serve pediatric patients, is the zoo's most generous donor. A fundraising campaign to raise the rest of the funds for the project will start immediately.
"Since so many children have little or no access to nature, the new Sanford Children's Zoo will provide them with a unique and engaging outdoor adventure where they will learn about animals and their homes as they play," said Debra Erickson, San Diego Zoo Global's director of communications. "During their exciting, ever-changing adventures, they will begin developing an empathy and concern for animals and plants which will lay the groundwork for their future involvement in conservation."
(Photo credit: San Diego Zoo)