Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lions in Africa need our help

In honor of Lion Week ...

#LionWeek is a hashtag on G+ and Twitter to spread awareness for protection of Lions in Africa.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flutter into a world like no other when you visit Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

You know spring has arrived when the days are a little brighter, the flowers begin to bloom, and the butterflies arrive at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Imagine being Alice when she first enters Wonderland – this is what you feel like when walking through the doors to Butterfly Jungle. 

Suddenly everything around you is alive with beauty and vibrant color. 

It is the best kind of sensory overload you can have. The sound of birds overhead, the warm feeling of tropical humidity, the smell of sweet nectar from the flowers, and the abundance of little wings fluttering all around you. 

It is truly a magical experience. One that must be experienced again and again.

Aside from the breathtaking beauty, Butterfly Jungle also helps bring awareness to the endangered status of the many species of butterflies. 

During our first visit to Butterfly Jungle last week, there were over 30 species of butterflies flittering around the exhibit from four parts of the world; Africa, Asia and Central and South America. 

Leopard Lacewing Butterfly

These delicate creatures have a great conservation message. The butterflies come to the Safari Park in the pupa stage via Federal Express overnight delivery from countries like El Salvador, Costa Rica and Columbia.

Emerging Box
The pupae are shipped in small cotton trays, carefully unpacked, and then immediately hung in the emerging boxes where they will emerge within a few days to one week. Since the butterflies are endangered and from outside of the United States, the Safari Park is required to have a special USDA permit allowing them to house the butterflies.

While attending a special social media tweetup, we had the opportunity to learn some fascinating things from butterfly keeper Sara Schmitt. We learned that butterfly farming is a sustainable use of the rain forest in countries like Costa Rica, where the first shipment of 500 butterfly pupae came from. By importing thousands of butterfly pupae every spring, the Safari Park is promoting conservation of rain forest habitat in these countries. Butterfly farming allows farmers to leave their land in its pristine natural form and harvest butterflies as a sustainable occupation.

Butterfly Jungle opened March 16th and runs through April 7th. If you havenot had the chance to go, I highly recommend you plan a visit over Spring Break. Be sure to check out the Safari Park's Butterfly Jungle web page before you go  - there are a variety of activities, butterfly I.D. guide, and contests too! My favorite is the Instagram contest. Just tag your Instagram photos with #ButterflyJungle and you are automatically entered. 

Zebra Longwing

We enjoyed Butterfly Jungle so much that we are going back this weekend for one more visit before the exhibit closes on April 7, 2013. 

... And this time I won't forget to buy my butterfly coffee mug ;)

To see more pictures from Butterfly Jungle you can view my album on Flickr

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sometimes you just have to take the tiger home with you

Have you ever gone in a store with one specific item in mind and walked out with something entirely different? You have? Great, then you will understand exactly what happened to me the other day.

You see, a friend at work told me about a store that had shoes for Dylan, so I ran over there on my lunch break to buy a pair. Well, they didn't have any in his size. I figured I was already there so I would wander the aisles for a few minutes. As I turned the corner, I saw it.

There it was. Just sitting there.
Staring back at me with those eyes.
Those eyes that said take me home.

Dylan would love this! He has been working so hard over the past few months with his Reading for Wildlife and Cans for Critters fundraisers that I thought this would be the perfect gift. The perfect way to show him how proud I am of him.

The only problem was the size - 5 feet wide and 40 inches tall. I drive a Prius. Will this fit in my car?

If I wait, I just know that someone else will buy it.

The canvas was only $40.

Decisions to make. Justifications to make.

Was it in the budget?

Did it fit in my car?

Was it worth it to see the look on his face?

After a little thought and some rearranging to do this weekend, we have found the perfect wall for our new friend. I think it is only fitting that after our tiger encounter last month, we call her Mek - in honor of our friend who moved to the Fresno Zoo.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Did you know 16,000 plants and animals are endangered?

This number may shock you or seem too high, but it is accurate. We may read more about the bigger, more popular animals, like the rhinos and tigers and elephants, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. So may species are endangered and need our help. From the smallest butterflies who are dying from pesticides to the large polar bears whose home is melting away and everyone in between.

According to San Diego Zoo Global,  to date, they have reintroduced 33 species back into the wild including: mountain yellow-legged frogs, 5 species of reptiles, 17 species of birds, and 10 species of mammals. In many cases, these efforts have meant the difference between extinction and survival. 

This, my friends, is why we feel so strongly about supporting San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy.

It's not just about going to see the animals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park - we go to witness first hand the breeding programs at work. 

The San Diego Zoo is so much more than just a zoo - it is physical proof that together, we are making a difference.  

Join me and thousands of others who are helping to bring species back from the brink of extinction by becoming a Wildlife Conservancy HERO. Together we can do more.   

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How you can make a difference and have fun at the same time

So often I hear people say that they don't know how to help or they don't have the time to do a big fundraiser.  They say the small amount they have to give wouldn't make a difference, so why bother. Well, this is where I usually get on my soapbox and start talking about how one person can make a difference and that you don't need to give thousands of dollars to help save endangered wildlife or the habitats they live in.

My family is by no means wealthy. In fact, for many years we lived paycheck to paycheck - just barely getting by. However, I always managed to do something to make a difference, even if it was only recycling the cans and water bottles we used. It was better than them ending up in a landfill right? As I learned to stick to a budget, I was able to give more monetarily. Still not a lot, but something. It felt good to give and know that I was making a difference and helping to save an endangered animal. I taught these values to my son and as you may know, he has become quite the little philanthropist.

Making a difference in the world can be fun too - Just get creative!

Dylan currently has three different San Diego Zoo Global fundraisers going on and I was getting very confused with what money went where, so we grabbed some jars (re-purposed from our kitchen), some mailing labels and our Sharpie pens. Not only do the jars make it easier to keep the money separated, but they make us smile and look pretty darn cool on the counter!

Cans for Critters is a recycling fundraiser that will help Dylan meet his conservation requirement for Cub Scouts. All the money he gets from recycling gets put in this jar for the critters.

Animal Care Wish List is a monthly list of wishes from the keepers at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park for the animals. Sometimes it's feeding the animals, buying special toys for animal enrichment, or helping the conservation projects around the world. This jar collects all of our spare change and pays for monthly items on the wish list.

I Read for Wildlife is the latest and greatest fundraiser where Dylan has promised to read 1500 pages of fascinating animal facts in 100 days. Money from his sponsors or that he has raised gets put in this jar.

Now that you see how easy (and fun) it can be to help endangered species, what will you do to make a difference? Will you start a fundraising jar?

Remember, there is no time limit and no rule that says you need to raise thousands of dollars. Find something that you are passionate about and start saving your spare change. Coins add up quickly and many items on the Animal Care Wish List cost less than $10.

EVERYONE can make a difference - YOU just need to pick a day to start - Why not TODAY?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunset Sunday - The magic moment

Sometimes it's not the golden hour that makes a sunset so memorable, but the short magic moment when the sky appears to be glowing and everything else becomes a silhouette  That moment just before the sun fades away - the magic moment between day and night.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tiger cubs celebrate their 1st birthday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Hard to believe it has already been a year since these two adorable tiger cubs pounced their way into our hearts ... Happy 1st Birthday Conrad and Thomas!

                          Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park - June 26, 2012

You have grown into two very handsome young tigers and I know your Dad Utan is looking down on you with so much pride. Enjoy those tasty bloodsicles I'm sure you will get today. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Reading for Wildlife update - Saving animals one page at a time

Well, tomorrow will be day 50 of Dylan's adventure - The half way point to reaching his goal of reading 1500 pages in 100 days to raise money and awareness for wildlife.

If you follow us on Instagram or on Facebook, then you have seen the pictures, video clips, and tidbits of his journey that we have documented.

Dylan has finished two of his selected books and started his third book today. So far he has read a total of 750 pages - Right on schedule. He has been very good about reading at least 15 pages a day, or if he has a lot of homework, he makes up for days missed by reading more on the weekends.

Dylan reads in bed ...

Dylan reads on the treadmill ...

So far Dylan has raised $290 from sponsors, but he still needs $210 to reach his goal of $500. 

It only costs $5 to sponsor one day of reading - the price of a fancy cup of coffee. 
If you can, and if you would like to help Dylan on his journey of Reading for Wildlife, please visit where you can sponsor him with your tax-deductible donation. 

This is Dylan's latest video from yesterday. You can see more video clips on the YouTube channel

Friday, March 1, 2013

An open letter to my son

I have noticed a change in you recently and I believe that I had something to do with it. You have seemed a little calmer and a little less agitated when I ask you to do something. The tone of your voice isn’t always sarcastic when you talk to me.

You say please and thank you. You give me a hug for no other reason than to say I love you Mom. In general, life has been much happier in our home.

I began to notice these changes about the same time I started being there for you. Not that I wasn’t there for you before, but I realized that there is a difference between being in the same room working on the computer and just being there on the couch. I have spent very little time on the computer since my ah-ha moment, which means much less time telling you to wait a minute. Social media can wait – you can not.

Ten years have already flown by and I find myself wondering where the time went. When did my little boy grow up? Then I think, oh yes, he grew up when I wasn’t watching - When I wasn’t there.

Those days and nights when I was too busy writing a paper for school, or too busy meeting a deadline for my editor, or writing a blog post that just couldn’t wait another day.

The times when Facebook and twitter took priority over you – That is when you grew up.

For the past few weeks I have been able to relax at night. Flip through a magazine or work on a crafting project and be there for you - be there with you. We can talk or read together. I watch you play a game on the Wii and when you say mom, watch this I can. Or when you want to share something that you just read, I can listen to you.

I’m here Dylan. For real this time, I am here.

Here to watch you grow up.

Here to listen to you.

Here to spend quality time with you.

Our weekends will be filled with less chores and errands – and more time together taking pictures, going on adventures, exploring nature, and of course lots and lots of zoo trips.

It scares me to think that the next 8 years will fly by just as quickly, if not quicker, than the last 10 years did. My baby will be 18 years old before I know it and I don’t want to miss any more than I already have.

I love you Dylan.