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East County News Service 

January 3, 2023 (Escondido)  – San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance won the coveted Animation Award in yesterday’s 134th Rose Parade presented by Honda, with a float celebrating the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s 50th anniversary. The float’s theme, “Celebrating 50 Years of Conservation,” depicted rhinos, giraffes and the Safari Park’s iconic Wildlife Safari experience, bringing to life the Safari Park’s ability to connect guests with wildlife and provide life-changing moments.

The award recognizes the most outstanding use of animation. Giraffes and rhinos on the float were animated, with the rhinos seemingly coming to life as they turned their heads and the giraffes moving their long necks and bending down for a cool drink of water from a flowing waterfall.

 “We are humbled and honored to receive the Animation Award, but more importantly, we are grateful the Rose Parade gave San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and our Safari Park an opportunity to bring our conservation message to a global audience,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and chief executive officer, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “Conservation starts with people—and at the Safari Park, we are able to make a connection between our guests and wildlife every day. Our hope is that connecting people to wildlife will inspire them to help support our mission and our global conservation programs to protect endangered wildlife.”

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is an international conservation organization with two sites dedicated to conservation and educating the public:  the San Diego Zoo near downtown San Diego and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California. The Safari Park opened in 1972, and since the beginning, saving species has been a key part of its mission. The Safari Park has played a huge role in the conservation of species ranging from condors and hornbills to rhinos and elephants.

The “Celebrating 50 Years of Conservation” float featured 4-month-old Neville and his mother Livia, two southern white rhinos who bring enormous hope to the cutting-edge efforts to save the distantly related northern white rhino. With only two northern white rhinos left on Earth, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is combining groundbreaking conservation science with more than a century of world-class wildlife expertise to save the species. Neville is the third rhino born as part of this revolutionary program at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—joining Edward and Future, who also made history as the first southern white rhinos born through artificial insemination in North America.

Also featured was Msituni an 11-month-old giraffe born at the Safari Park. Born unable to walk, a condition in which she would not have survived in her native habitat, she required months of critical around-the-clock care, along with several pairs of custom giraffe-sized orthotic leg braces, to support her while she gained the necessary strength to walk. Today, after making a full recovery, Msituni runs alongside dozens of giraffes, wildebeest, impalas, rhinos and Cape buffalo in the Safari Park’s African savannas.

On the float, a pair of African crowned cranes meandered through lush landscape, as Msituni’s parents peeked with curiosity into an open-air safari truck filled with guests. The riders were wildlife care specialists, veterinarians and conservation scientists from the Safari Park, who have dedicated their lives to caring for Neville, Msituni and hundreds of wildlife species in San Diego and around the globe. They were joined by the Safari Park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, expert wildlife guides from the Safari Park and four young children representing the next generation of conservationists.

The floral array on the float illustrated that both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and San Diego Zoo are accredited botanical gardens that feature over 2 million plants—and serve as a reminder of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s dedication to plant conservation through its many efforts, including the Wildlife Biodiversity Bank.

The Safari Park’s 1,800 acres are home to vital conservation efforts, with more than 3,600 individual animals from more than 300 species, and a botanical collection of more than 1.75 million plants.

The Safari Park welcomes more than 1 million guests each year, providing opportunities g for visitors to connect with nature and wildlife, while supporting San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s conservation efforts worldwide. Prior to this year, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance had a float in the Rose Parade in 1996, in celebration of the Zoo’s 80th anniversary; and in 2022, celebrating San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s global conservation efforts.

SDZWA Float Riders Include:

Barbara Durrant, Ph.D., director of reproductive sciences, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Hilary Erbland, Safari Experiences guide, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Matt Kinney, DVM, senior veterinarian, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Asha Natividad, wildlife care specialist, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Oliver Ryder, Ph.D., director of conservation genetics, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Andrew Stehly, curator of birds, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Ollie Zirbel, lead wildlife care specialist, San Diego Zoo Safari Park


About San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance 

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and working toward 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 eco-regional conservation “hubs” across the globe, where their expertise and assets—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 skills 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 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers television programming, 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.


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so nice

to belong to such a great organization!!! great job zoo.

They are wonderful!

My daughter used to work there as a tour guide, driving the double decker bus.  I love that they've created a frozen sperm bank to help save species that might otherwise go extinct, and that some animals have been reintroduced to the wild.