San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Gardens Receive International Accreditation

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) has granted accreditation to San Diego Zoo Global for its gardens at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the plant conservation work they support at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. The certification recognizes San Diego Zoo Global’s important conservation contribution to the efforts to preserve plant species.

“We are tremendously honored to be included among the other notable gardens around the world that are preserving endangered plant species for the future,” said Bob Wiese Ph.D., chief life sciences officer, San Diego Zoo Global. “Although our work with endangered animal species often receives more public attention, the incredible dedication of our team of horticulturists is making a difference in our battle to end extinction.”

San Diego Zoo horticulture team

BGCI’s certification recognizes not only the beauty and diversity of the curated plant collections of the Zoo and Safari Park but also the tremendous effort that goes into conserving plant species. San Diego Zoo Global’s ongoing plant research programs work to preserve and understand the natural history and genetic diversity of rare plants. San Diego Zoo Global’s restoration of local habitats in San Diego County and seed banking of endangered native California species are a testament to its commitment to conserve critically endangered plant populations, like the torrey pine and San Diego thornmint.

“Botanic gardens across the world are documenting, understanding, growing and conserving plant diversity,” said Brian Lainoff, Head of Membership Strategy and Services for BGCI. “They are not, however, sufficiently recognised by policymakers and funders. BGCI’s Accreditation Scheme assesses, places a high value, and sets international standards on the unique skills, knowledge and conservation action in botanic gardens.” 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park horticulture team

With nearly two million plants cared for at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park combined, San Diego Zoo Global joins other world-class botanical gardens that are accredited by both BGCI and the American Association of Museums (AAM). San Diego Zoo Global’s beautiful and unique gardens display collections of aloes, coral trees, bamboo, acacias, ficus, conifers, palms, cycads, orchids and California native plant species. The botanical collection not only augments the habitats of the animals but also provides an important nutritional resource for them. Additionally, the Zoo and Safari Park also act as “rescue centers” for rare and endangered plant species that have been confiscated from wildlife trafficking, receiving specimens from a variety of sources.

“When people walk into the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, they are immediately struck by the beauty of our gardens and natural spaces,” said Stephanie Shigematsu, curator of horticulture for the San Diego Zoo. “Although most people come to our parks to see animals, the plants add a richness and depth to their experience. There are plant species all over the world that are critically endangered and facing extinction—we participate in plant species survival plans, research, and educational outreach that help preserve that botanical wealth for future generations.”

Institute for Conservation Research Plant Conservation department

San Diego Zoo plant collections are highlighted each month on Plant Day, which takes place on the third Friday of each month. On these days, the Zoo offers a number of free plant presentations with horticulture experts.