Connecting with Vultures at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This year, we celebrate the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s 50th anniversary. It’s a time to reflect on the last 50 years of conservation, and an opportunity to look ahead to the future. At the Safari Park, conservation science and world-class wildlife care work cohesively for a brighter future for us all. The Safari Park team has helped to spearhead conservation projects for many threatened and endangered species, ranging from the Arabian oryx and the Przewalski’s horse to the iconic California condor. Innovation, collaboration, and inspiration is what we do here. Wildlife, ecosystems, and communities the world over benefit when these conservation initiatives go from dream to reality.

This year’s International Vulture Awareness Day reminds us to not only continue our efforts to save wildlife, but to celebrate and bring awareness to a crucial group of birds: the vultures of our planet. It gives us a chance to speak about and take action to stop their drastic decline. There are 23 species of vultures, and many are threatened or endangered. They face obstacles including poaching, poisoning, micro-trash, habitat loss, and accessibility to food. To me, vultures represent the connectivity of all things, from the largest organisms to the smallest. Vultures help to break down organic matter by consuming carcasses—cleaning up the environment, giving access to other scavengers, and restoring balance to the ecosystem.

Learn about vultures, including efforts to save the California condor, at International Vulture Awareness Day at the Safari Park.

But to some, there is a negative perception of these beautiful birds. As I was growing up in the United States, television was an accessible and useful tool to learn the language and understand US culture. What I always paid particular attention to was the portrayal of vultures and other scavengers as something menacing, dirty, or unintelligent. Even as a small boy, I knew this to be misleading. It resonated deep within me. Western civilization and culture missed the mark in understanding these magnificent birds.

The Safari Park can help change those misperceptions. In our 50 years of history, we’ve shown that collaboration and innovation can bring wildlife back from the brink—not only in reproductive and re-establishment practices, but also in educating and inspiring our many guests that walk through our front doors.

Wildlife Ambassador Marco Wendt (author of this post) shares his passion for vultures with Safari Park guests.
Elephants may not really know they need vultures—but they do!

Whether you have felt the wind against your face as an Andean condor soared above your head during a presentation, watched a California condor chick grow up on our live cams, or stood in awe as dozens of native turkey vultures soared above you against the rays of the setting sun, you may have experienced some of the many unique moments that the Safari Park shares with guests from around the world. During our 50th anniversary celebration, we look forward to sharing more of these moments that affect us all. Wonder can happen in a moment, and a moment can change a lifetime.

As you experience these inspirational moments, you feel connected. Being an international nonprofit conservation organization, we help link our conservation initiatives spanning over six continents to our two wildlife parks here in San Diego. As a guest, you are part of that collaboration. Know that your support is directly linked to a Safari Park wildlife care specialist providing nesting material to an African vulture pair during breeding season, and to our partners in South Africa rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing vultures back into their native habitat. International Vulture Awareness Day is a day to celebrate, to learn, to inspire, and to advocate for the winged scavengers of the world. When you visit us, you will leave with your heart filled with hope for the future—and knowing that you are part of the mission: a mission to create a world where all life can thrive.

Celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day during this year’s 50th anniversary at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—like no place on Earth!

International Vulture Day 2022 is September 3.
Visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
to learn more about the plight of vultures, and how you can help.