Voices: A Sense of Insight

Santa Barbara Zoo: Rich Block

Committed to conservation, the Santa Barbara Zoo strives to connect people
with animals and the natural world. This goes far beyond a visit to the Zoo—
we are involved in several field activities with local endangered or threatened animals, specifically with California condor and Channel Island fox.

Inspired to make their way of life and habitat real and easily accessible to
visitors we fashioned a special exhibit, California Trails. Here people can see and connect with these creatures, including the bald eagle, desert tortoise and local reptiles and amphibians. We hope this inspires our guests to take the next step, to get out into nature to see California’s great diversity of animals and habitats ... and maybe also to become involved in saving them.

How are we involved in conservation? Our Nest Monitoring Program allows dedicated volunteers to view California condors nesting in the wild, and to
gather vital information about their behavior. This process has nurtured intimate connections between the volunteers and nature. David Moen, our California Condor Intern Nest Technician recently completed two nest entries, three trap-ups and five arduous treks into the backcountry in his first five weeks on the job. Add to that dozens of hours behind a spotting scope, monitoring the slightest movement in a nest, and this is how he summed up the experience:

"The location is a remote place of austere beauty, tempered with incredible heat and occasional wafts of burning tar. Each of my three-hour bushwhacking hikes into this site included some combination of rope burn on palms, scrambling down loose rocks, stepping over rattlesnakes, avoiding mother bear and cubs, struggling to defeat the dangers of dehydration, and showing up to camp only to find camping gear missing… but I felt strong, alive, and more accomplished than ever after the mayhem was over, and all I could hear was the steady rolling of the creek below. Condor country is home for me.”




Megan Richards, our Adult Volunteer Coordinator has been helping with Channel Island Fox fieldwork. Every morning on San Miguel Island the adventure begins before sunrise. Assessing fox recovery which is done by annual trap-ups, daily 3.5-mile treks are required to check the traps. If caught, a fox is weighed, vaccinated, and given a health screening.

“I learned a lot about the islands by just wandering around in the afternoons,”
says Megan. “For such a small area, San Miguel has great diversity. From seals and hawks, to fossilized caliche forests, the island never ceased to amaze me
with its beauty. If you have the opportunity, I recommend exploring these natural wonders, which are so close to home.”

Rich Block is the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens.