SAN DIEGO (June 1, 2021) – San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s commitment to inspire people to become wildlife allies was emphasized this morning as San Diego Zoo officials and San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn unveiled two brand-new habitats. With a crowd of invited guests and members of the press, Zoo officials and Whitburn cut the ribbon opening the Kenneth C. Griffin Komodo Kingdom and the William E. Cole Family Hummingbird Habitat—two unique spaces where guests can become immersed in learning about the interconnectedness between wildlife and people, and ways to help conserve species.
“Building a world where all life thrives isn’t just a motto for us, it’s the central driving force behind all the work we do to protect wildlife—here at home and through our work across six continents,” said Paul Baribault, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “Our team worked diligently to bring these two innovative habitats to life, and through them, we now have the opportunity further our mission by uniting our guests with these amazing species.”
Komodo Kingdom offers guests the opportunity to explore various environments from Komodo Island in Indonesia, including beach, woodland and mountain highland areas. This remarkable new experience includes pools, misters, hot rocks and heated caves—all specially designed to recreate the dragons’ native region. As guests step into Komodo Kingdom, they will be greeted by the Zoo’s two Komodo dragons, 9-year-old female, Ratu and 17-year-old, male, Satu, and have the chance to visit with both of them up close. Visitors will also learn about the species, the challenges they face and the work San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is doing to help save them—and hundreds of others like them—including the delicate ecosystems they call home.
Conservationists have estimated that the current Komodo dragon population in Indonesia has declined due to habitat loss, increased tourism and illegal poaching. The species is classified as Vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. As part of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s conservation focus on wildlife within Asian rainforests, the organization has worked to understand the population biology of Komodo dragons, and fight against the tide of threats facing them and other species in the region.
“High rates of deforestation, major biodiversity loss, unsustainable agriculture, illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, and an increase of potential for transmission of zoonotic diseases are just a few of the dangers Komodo dragons and other wildlife living in the Asian rainforest region face daily,” said Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “It’s vital we preserve ecosystems such as Asian rainforests, and these habitats not only help us to educate the public, they also assist in recruiting allies who will join us in saving unique environments, and maintaining a balanced relationship between human and wildlife that is critically important for a healthy planet.”
Across the path from Komodo Kingdom is the new infinity-loop-shaped Hummingbird Habitat, a rare immersive walk-through experience that offers endless flight opportunities to several species of hummingbirds, as well as other distinctive birds and plants native to North and South America. The habitat includes novel educational opportunities for guests to connect with these tiny, colorful-feathered and important pollinators, heightening San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s ability to convey the plight of each species and share information about what steps people can take to help conserve wildlife in their own backyards. The Hummingbird Habitat features cascading water, orchids, anthuriums, palms and other rare plants reflecting the diversity and beauty of the birds’ native regions—as well as an open-water pool that guests can view from an observation bridge along the pathway.
Conservation is at the forefront in the design of the two new habitats, and architects have incorporated state-of-the-art sustainable materials as an integral part of Komodo Kingdom and Hummingbird Habitat design. Both habitats include wall and/or roof panels made with ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE)—a fluorine-based plastic that is created to be more resistant to corrosion—new to the world of habitat design. The system is 100% recyclable, and consists of a series of custom-sized Teflon multilayered “air pillows”—which, when filled with air, provide solar insulation while also reducing the need for artificial lighting.
Komodo Kingdom and Hummingbird Habitat openings pave the way for the historic debut of a completely new Children’s Zoo later this year, which replaces the original built in 1957. In just a few months, Zoo guests will be able to experience the wonders of the 3.2-acre Sanford Children’s Zoo, designed to provide kids greater opportunities to discover the natural world through play, and help them care for and better understand wildlife. The area will include four different fully imagined ecosystems—Desert Dunes, Wild Woods, Marsh Meadows and Rainforest—featuring plants and animals that have adaptations specific to the climatic conditions.
About San Diego Zoo Wildlife AllianceSan Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and creating a world where all life thrives. The Alliance empowers people from around the globe to support their mission to conserve wildlife through innovation and partnerships. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance supports cutting-edge conservation and brings the stories of their work back to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park—giving millions of guests, in person and virtually, the opportunity to experience conservation in action. The work of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance extends from San Diego to strategic and regional conservation “hubs” across the globe, where their strengths—via their “Conservation Toolbox,” including the renowned Wildlife Biodiversity Bank—are able to effectively align with hundreds of regional partners to improve outcomes for wildlife in more coordinated efforts. By leveraging these tools in wildlife care and conservation science, and through collaboration with hundreds of partners, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has reintroduced more than 44 endangered species to native habitats. Each year, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work reaches over 1 billion people in 150 countries via news media, social media, their websites, educational resources and the San Diego Zoo Kids channel, which is in children’s hospitals in 13 countries. Success is made possible by the support of members, donors and guests to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, who are Wildlife Allies committed to ensuring All Life Thrives.