Close Encounters of the Respectful Kind

Whether a brief glimpse of a breaching whale, the peaceful view of deer munching away in your backyard, or watching a penguin waddle across its habitat at the San Diego Zoo, any wildlife sighting is an unforgettable experience. These moments connect us with nature and remind us how beautiful our world truly is.

However special, these encounters can sometimes put wildlife—and people—in danger.

As habitat destruction shrinks space for animals worldwide, humans and wildlife are closer than ever before. There are few places left for animals and plants that are not impacted by people. Human activities in wildlife habitats create dangers and challenges that can affect the health, behavior, and even survival of plants and animals.

Luckily, you don’t need to be a conservation scientist to keep wildlife safe. Because we share space with wildlife in national parks, on hiking trails, in rural areas, at zoos and aquariums, and in our own backyards, we are given ample opportunities to protect plants and animals. These moments also provide a valuable chance to model empathy and respect for children who may be learning from you.

Here’s how you can join us in respecting and protecting wildlife each and every day:

Keep wildlife safe by keeping your distance. Many animals are frightened when humans come too close. To protect yourself and animals, observe them from an appropriate place. At the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, this means staying on the public path. In the wilderness, stick to marked trails. Do not touch or feed wildlife unless an authorized guide has given permission, as this could result in illness or injury for both you and the animal.

Treat all wildlife with appropriate caution. Let all wildlife, big and small, go about their business without interfering or causing them harm. Never harass or antagonize them. Animals do not live and communicate the same way that we do, and even when your intentions are pure, they may interpret your actions as a threat and respond in defense.

Leave no trace. Respecting wildlife means respecting their homes. Pick up after yourself and dispose of litter properly. Protect the habitats animals depend on by leaving plants untouched.

Visit San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s FAQ page. We’re here to help you understand how to safely appreciate and protect wildlife! Our Important Visitor Information page FAQ section provides facts and guidelines that can help ensure safety for wildlife and people alike when visiting the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Share your knowledge with others. Encourage your friends and family members to practice respect for wildlife by sharing these tips. If you see someone treating plants or animals improperly, let an authorized guide or park authority know immediately. When we work together to keep people and wildlife safe, we can build a world where all life thrives.