Of the 1,800 acres that comprise the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 900 are undeveloped, supporting large expanses of coastal sage scrub vegetation. This natural habitat, which occurs at the nexus of two regionally important habitat corridors, is extraordinarily high in native species diversity, supporting 24 mammal, 179 bird, 28 reptile, and 4 amphibian species. Remarkably, the area supports 16 species of native snakes, more than have been found at any other site in Southern California. This reserve, which was formally set aside in 1996-1997 as part of San Diego’s multi-species and habitat conservation plans, forms a key part of the larger system of interconnected protected areas designated to conserve San Diego’s unique regional biodiversity over the long term.
This natural area provides an unparalleled opportunity for scientific study and the development of monitoring and management techniques. The reserve is well protected, bordered by a broad spectrum of adjacent land uses, and contains a variety of habitat types, ranging from riparian areas to live oak woodlands. Scientists at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance have been intensively monitoring wildlife populations on the reserve for more than ten years. We take an active role in restoring the area, which is slowly recovering from the impact of the 2007 wildfires. To date, we have planted thousands of cacti and young shrubs as part of our efforts to restore fire-damaged areas of the reserve. Although the reserve is not open to the public, it is available to individual scientists for approved research projects.