Partnerships in Conservation and Captive Husbandry: The San Diego Zoo

Zilla Thank You SignOne of Zilla’s key values is supporting conservation of reptiles and amphibians in their native habitats. While we want to make sure we create products that provide the best husbandry possible for your pet reptiles and amphibians, we also want to make sure those animals exist for future generations to enjoy. One great way for us to do that was to team up with the San Diego Zoo’s Reptile Department and help them to reduce their energy usage by 45% opening their budget to focus more on animal care and conservation.

In 2015 members of Zilla were given an amazing opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the San Diego Zoo’s Reptile House and Conservation Facilities. It was an incredible experience to see and hear about the work done by the zoo both on site and around the world. While touring the facilities where the animals are housed, we noticed that the zoo had a huge variety of lighting types. In conversations with the staff, we found out how difficult it is to manage the stock of supplies when you’re using so many different bulbs and fixtures. By the end of our tour, we were blown away by everything the zoo does and wanted to work on a way to give back. We started talking with the staff about some ideas and flew home.

Once we got back to the office, we began building mock enclosures in the Zilla Lab to test out the lighting signatures for heat and UVB in different layouts and configurations. We needed to see what would be best for each animal’s individual habitat requirements. Months passed with Zilla sending the Reptile Team different products to try out, focusing on our Pro Series UVB Coil bulbs and our Mini Halogen bulbs. The UVA/UVB Pro Series bulbs produce an incredible amount of UV light and have a 12 month lifespan, while only being 20 watts.The Mini Halogen bulbs in the Zilla Mini Dome are over 250% more efficient than standard incandescent spot lights and much more compact. Between these two bulbs, we could cover nearly all of the zoos heating and lighting needs. To brighten up the enclosures and help with the plant growth we designed LED strip lights to finish it off. With these 3 types of lighting solutions, we could work together to create lower wattage, higher output heating and UV lighting while increasing the natural look of the enclosures and greatly reducing the variety of bulbs and fixtures used on the grounds.  

Zilla Reptiles SnakeIn order to make this feasible for the zoo, the entire project was donated by Zilla. In February of 2017 we sent out all of the bulbs and fixtures needed and flew to San Diego to begin working on the exhibits in the main building, the Klauber-Shaw Reptile House. In the first trip out, we removed the old lighting which used over 23,000 watts of electricity, and replaced it with improved lighting that totaled only 12,526 watts while providing improved heating and UV light for the animals! That was a 45% reduction in electricity! This could free up money being spent on electricity to go back into the animals and their conservation.  It would also help avoid potential costly electrical upgrades. Throughout 2017, we flew out a few more times to help the Reptile team with the habitats kept behind the scenes within the buildings, and in other areas like the Reptile Walk.

With the new lighting, the staff and zoo visitors have seen more natural behaviors from the animals, improved breeding activity, and a much more controlled environment for each animal. We have greatly enjoyed this project and the immense impact it will have on the work that the Reptile Team does at the San Diego Zoo and globally through conservation. A huge thank you goes out to Brett Baldwin and his team, as well as all of the staff. This has been just the start, and only one of many ways Zilla continues to focus on animals in captivity as well as around the world.