By Luis Monteagudo Jr.
The animals are usually the stars at the San Diego Zoo. But for Animal Planet’s new reality TV series, “The Zoo: San Diego,” it’s the people behind the exhibits and cages who really stand out.
The new series premiering Saturday, Aug. 10, at 8 p.m. Pacific time, takes a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the world-famous zoo.
“This is our time to tell our story,” said Sean Dixon, chief operating officer at the zoo. “That’s what we’re doing with the show.”
The 12-episode series has plenty of adorable animals, from a baby klipspringer (a small antelope) to a 5-year old gorilla. And there are some not so cuddly critters, including a California condor and a venomous viper snake.
But the heart of the show is the dedication and extraordinary measures that zookeepers take to make sure their animals are kept healthy and safe.
In the premiere episode screened recently at the zoo, animal care supervisor Brandon Scott goes to great lengths to care of a venomous snake. As part of the zoo’s conservation mission, he supervises its mating with a female snake.
“This is how we raise the numbers,” said Scott. “This is how we help the species come back.”
Later, he helps the snake develop stronger bones by feeding it mice injected with calcium.
Other staff nurse a young klipspringer that was born in weak condition, including bottle feeding it and slowly introducing the animal to its outdoor exhibit. Another staffer helps hatch a baby condor from its egg, drilling a small hole in its egg when it’s learned that the bird needs help to hatch itself. And another makes fruit cake for a birthday party for Joann the gorilla.
“Their conservation programs are incredible,” said Paul Schur, a spokesman for Animal Planet. “They want to save animals from extinction.
Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.
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