Ah September… the end of summer, the onset of fall. Throughout the dog days of Summer, children show up at Safari West in droves, vacationing with parents or grand-parents, clambering up and down the trucks, and shouting excitedly when the giraffes or lemurs come into view. Then September blows in with a drop in temperature and a change in the cottonwood leaves and suddenly the children are showing up on buses and its field-trip season again. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking of these autumn months as the start of a slow season, but let me tell you, it’s anything but.
Though the days are getting shorter and the nights colder, Safari West is still bustling. In the next month or so, we’re going to be positively swamped with activities. First up we have a brand new World Rhino Day event taking place on September 22nd. Our keeper staff has shown incredible initiative in forming a brand new chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). The Safari West AAZK is putting on the “Nail it for Rhinos” event detailed below and we couldn’t be prouder.
Shortly thereafter on October 11th we’ll be hosting our annual fundraiser for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Our friend and the founder of CCF, Dr. Laurie Marker will be on hand as we do our part to help CCF’s herculean efforts in cheetah conservation.
Almost immediately after that we’ll be hosting another fundraiser. This time for the Safari West Wildlife Foundation; a non-profit we started to make it possible for thousands of underserved children to come to Safari West each year.
Capping off this flurry of activity is the Safari West Halloween Spook-tacular. This year will be bigger than ever with trick-or-treating, a costume contest, skeletal displays by our amazing Osteology Team, and the triumphant return of the Conservation Pumpkin Patch; fundraising this year for the Vulture Conservation Foundation!
No matter the season, there is always something amazing on the horizon here at Safari West and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This autumn come out and see us. You’re eagerly invited to attend each and every one of these amazing events.
We invite you to Fall into the Wild!
Nancy & Peter Lang
Founders of Safari West
Conservation Corner: Back to School Shopping? Beware the Trapper Keeper Trap
By: Jared Paddock
Remember the Trapper Keeper? If you had or were a child in the 80’s or 90’s you almost certainly do. That’s when the Trapper Keeper was in its prime. I’m told the stylish plastic binders still exist but if so, they’re a bit lost amid the million interchangeable items in your local stores Back to School section. I have a theory about Trapper Keepers. They were awesome, they were hip, they were in fact useful, but they were also fragile, disposable, and potentially the harbingers of a destructive and ongoing ecological problem.
I asked my dad once what back-to-school was like when he was a kid. He talked about the disappointment of the end of summer and the drudgery of returning to class. He mentioned having to make covers for his assigned text books out of paper bags. “We had to cover them because the same books had been used for years, maybe decades.” He couldn’t remember ever carrying binders and wasn’t sure that he’d ever even owned a backpack.
I am a product of the eighties and nineties and my back-to-school memories are a bit different. I remember begrudgingly following my parents into K-mart or Target. I remember shopping carts loaded with a sea of “necessary” supplies. I have emotionally charged memories of Jansport backpacks, erasable pens, plastic protractors, mechanical pencils, and of course, I remember my Trapper Keeper. Or, more accurately, I remember Trapper Keepers, because cool though they were, they rarely lasted long and almost always wound up getting tossed by the end of the school year.
I dug up the history of this particular item because of all the items purchased each August, the Trapper Keeper is the one that has the most pop-culture relevance and nostalgia (and this isn’t just for me personally, there’s a vibrant market out there for “vintage” Trapper Keepers). In case you’re unfamiliar, the Trapper Keeper is at its heart, little more than a stylish variation on the standard three-ring binder, invented by Mead Corporation employee E. Bryant Crutchfield in the late 70’s. There’s a fascinating write-up about this history at mentalfloss.com but the long and short of it is that students in the 70’s were struggling with organization and Crutchfield discovered a way to exploit a previously untapped market.
Every high school movie ever made has a scene in which a bully knocks the hero’s stuff out of his or her hands resulting in a fluttering cascade of paperwork. The Trapper Keeper neatly solves this problem. The binder itself closes securely with a flap. The rings hold onto the individual folders, and the folders have angled vertical pockets so even when held upside down, the papers contained within can’t fall out. At its core it is a profoundly useful device.
Now here’s where my theory comes in. The difference between the Trapper Keeper and the various three-ring binders it competed with is that the Trapper Keeper was aggressively marketed. There was television commercials for the Trapper Keeper and even at the outset, there were options as far as appearances went. The folders came with pictures printed on them and eventually the binders did as well. This had two immediate and important consequences. Firstly, kids wanted the things. The same way we wanted specific toys, we now wanted specific folders. When I was in third grade, my folders had to have Ninja Turtles on them. For some of my friends it was football, or Transformers, or cars. We nagged our parents, pleaded in the aisles of the stores, traded with one another on the playground.
The second major consequence of the Trapper Keepers appearance was a sudden shift toward disposability. While TV dinners, instant coffee, and paper plates were already well-entrenched by the early eighties, the disposability of school supplies was something new. It’s not that the Trapper Keeper was specifically designed to be disposable; it’s just that it was designed to be cheap. Rather than sturdy metal rings, the binder sported a plastic sliding mechanism that (at least in my case) never survived the school year. Likewise the thin plastic cover heat-sealed around the binder inevitably split and tore. In the rare case that the binder actually made it through the year, it was practically a guarantee that by the start of the next grade a new model would be out. A young me, horrified by the idea of starting fourth grade with something as childish as a Ninja Turtle folder would clamor for the newer model on display at the store.
I’m picking on the Trapper Keeper because it’s the most famous example but it’s hard to ignore the changes that came in its wake. In my day, Jansport backpacks also carried a must-have cachet. The cool kids had Jansports and if you wanted to be one of them, you needed something similar. The backpacks were popular, useful, relatively cheap, and, at least in my case, almost always wore out or broke before the next summer vacation. Around this same time, there was also a surge in totally unnecessary accessories for the elementary school crowd. We had pencil grips that slid over your trusty #2 pencil because apparently pencil-slippage had been an ongoing crisis. Initially, these were simple rubber sleeves but I have clear memories of ergonomically designed grips that were supposed to teach you how to correctly hold your pencil as well.
By the fifth grade, I was taking not only pencils and pens to school, but also erasable pens, the much demanded middle ground between the permanence of ink and the correct-ability of graphite. I also had a compass that I used maybe once or twice a year but inevitably replaced the next year, a plastic protractor (usually stored in a plastic pencil box that still contained the shards of the previous protractor) and defying all logic, a cheaply made, manual three-hole punch that could be stored in my three-ring binder to prep non-hole-punched papers for storage. This device barely worked, broke almost immediately, and competed for space in the binder with hole-punched folders which could just as easily have held the non-hole-punched papers.
The problem with this situation is not just that I wasted time and energy packing around unnecessary products or even that so much money was (and is) wasted by parents across the country. The real problem is that almost all of these needless products are made out of cheap, easily manufactured, mass-produced plastic. And all of that plastic, from my very first Trapper Keeper to my last stupid hole-punch, do you know where it is now…In a landfill. All of it is still sitting quietly, patiently, resolutely in a landfill somewhere. And alongside my collection of discarded Trapper Keepers are the 75-million others that had been sold by 2013. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, doesn’t rot, doesn’t break down and disappear. The polymer strands that make up most plastics persist, sometimes for decades, centuries, or more.
As it turns out, plastics are far worse than we once knew. They essentially never go away and there is mounting evidence that plastics are complicit in a number of medical and ecological issues, from endocrine disorders to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s a giant swirling gyre of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean. If you’re like me, you’re probably imagining a floating landfill of plastic bottles, old Nikes, and swollen black bags of trash. In reality the patch is virtually invisible. While plastics don’t typically biodegrade, they do break down into smaller and smaller pieces eventually becoming what is called “microplastics”. These nearly invisible particles of plastic polymer congregate in the garbage patch and turn the water into a milky soup. Fish, turtles, and other sea life readily consume these near microscopic particles. Resulting problems can range from the infamous entanglement deaths of sea turtles and whales to sea bird starvation resulting from gut space being taken up by indigestible plastic rather than food. While the problems associated with plastics extend far beyond school supplies, the culture of back-to-school over-consumption is nonetheless a largely unrecognized culprit.
The Back-to-School season is a time when our economy and ecology collide in a fairly dramatic way. According the to “Backpack Index” put together by Huntington Bank for the last decade, the average cost to equip an elementary school child for the year has gone up by 88% since 2007 with similar numbers for middle and high-school aged students. They estimate that the average family can expect to spend $659, $957, and $1,498 for elementary, middle, and high-school aged students respectively. These costs can be crippling for some families and much of what those dollars go to buy can be devastating for the environment. While much of what shows up on back-to-school shopping lists is obviously necessary for a student to have, clearly not all of it is. Inflation and the increasing intensity of the education system alone simply cannot account for an 88% cost increase in less than a decade.
There’s no doubt that kids these days need much more for school than my parents, or even I myself did. We had to have calculators but today’s generation needs flash drives and tablet computers. These things are inevitably expensive and alongside them, even basic items like pencils have grown pricier. Even with that taken into account however, it has never been easier than it is today to limit your impact on the environment. We know now that disposable plastic is a problem and can easily avoid mechanical pencils, plastic rulers, and garbage products. Notebook paper may still be a necessity but it’s now simple to find stuff made of recycled product. These items may be more expensive at the outset, but by avoiding unnecessary expenditures like my series of hole punches and pencil-grips, and by investing in long-lasting products as opposed to the more disposable, many of these costs can be deferred over the long term.
Ten years ago, I bucked a lifelong trend and purchased a truly high-quality backpack. One produced by a company known for taking an environmentally conscious stance in its manufacturing practices and advocating quality above cost. It cost me significantly more than the JanSports and EastPacks I loved so much as a kid, but it has also survived a decade of daily use and abuse. It’s been dropped, kicked, dragged, tossed, worn through rainstorms, left out in the snow, and chewed on by a succession of dogs and yet, it’s still going strong. The cost for the eight to ten cheap backpacks I’d have gone through since 2006 far outweighs the cost of the one on my back today.
Like the generations that preceded us, my generation has a lot to answer for. When it comes to the rampant waste of our school supply consumerism, we can duck behind the defense of “we didn’t know better”. Alternatively, we can take the lessons of a culture of disposability and waste and turn them into teaching points for the future. When you go to the store to load up on supplies, whether for you children or for yourself, take a moment to consider what is necessary and what isn’t. Take a moment to consider what becomes of these minor conveniences after they’ve broken or outlived their usefulness. In the long run, none of us are going to save the world simply by buying quality products, but if we can at least stop burying it under mounds of non-degrading, non-essential garbage, we’re making a start.
Nail it for Rhinos!
We are extremely pleased to announce that Safari West is now home to a brand new chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers! The AAZK is a fantastic organization that bridges communities of dedicated keepers across the nation. By establishing a chapter here on property, our entrepreneurial keepers have joined a vast network of likeminded animal caretakers. This membership allows our keepers to share their knowledge and practices with other zoos and conservation facilities and to glean new insights from them in turn. It also allows Safari West to involve ourselves with a whole new spectrum of conservation causes.
To date the Safari West AAZK chapter has elected a governing body and is currently working with all Safari West departments to establish a core membership. Even as our keepers are getting this chapter off the ground, they’re already hosting their first event. On Thursday, September 22nd, and Sunday, September 25th, Safari West AAZK will be celebrating World Rhino Day here on property.
This year’s celebration of World Rhino Day includes the “Nail it for Rhinos” campaign; a novel approach to raising awareness of the rhino poaching crisis. There are currently five species of rhinos left on this planet and all of them are in trouble. A primary factor causing the decline of these massive and beautiful creatures is rampant poaching. Rhinos are frequently targeted for their unique and captivating horns. Horns which are often thought of as being somehow medicinal in spite of the fact that they are made of little more than keratin. Keratin is the same material that makes up the human hair and finger nail; two things which we can all agree have no medical value whatsoever.
To take part in the “Nail it for Rhinos” campaign, make a reservation to visit Safari West on September 22nd or 25th. Head out to the main lawn in front of the Amani Oasis aviary and paint a fingernail or two for rhinos! Once you’ve completed your manicured masterpiece, upload a picture to social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest) and include the hashtags #nailit4rhinos and #safariwestAAZK to help generate awareness for these magnificent creatures.
Alongside the nail painting and photo posting, we’ll also be selling “rhino paintings”. Not quite paintings of rhinos and not quite paintings by rhinos, these completely unique pieces of art are something in between. Proceeds from these sales as well as any charitable contributions you may feel like making will be sent to Save the Rhino.
Safari West AAZK is eager to hit the ground running with this kickoff event. Come to Safari West and join us as we work to protect the world’s rhinos and take our first steps on this brand-new, exciting AAZK adventure.
Bats, Bones, and Walking with the Dead
Halloween has always been a big deal here at Safari West, and this year may be the biggest yet. We’re really pulling out all the stops this time around and if you’ve never celebrated Halloween and Dia de los Muertos with Safari West, now’s the time to correct that mistake.
On Saturday, October 29th, you’re cordially invited to come attend our Halloween Spook-tacular! Like any good Halloween bash, costumes are highly encouraged, but with the catch that we want to see your most conservation-minded creation. What does that mean? Well, we’re not big fans of the cheap, few-use manufactured costumes that fill the shelves of big-box stores this time of year. Convenient though those may be, they tend to wind up in landfills by the first week of November and are almost always made of plastics and other non-biodegradables. Stun us with a clever costume made of recycled materials (clothes, boxes, old costumes, etc) and you may go home with free passes for one of our Classic Safari Tours.
Since you’ll already be in costume, you and yours should also take a turn on our Trick-or-Treat Trail! Visit our Conservation Pumpkin Patch, the Junior Keepers’ Mad Science Lab, the Wall of Skulls, and the Bone Garden, collecting candy all the way. This trail is not only a source for sugary sweetness, it’s also an amazing tour through some skeletal specimens of Safari West animals assembled by our dedicated Osteology Team (scientists of the skeleton). The Conservation Pumpkin Patch is a great place to support pumpkin-enrichment for the animals in our collection while simultaneously supporting the Vulture Conservation Foundation and their important work with some notoriously unnerving birds.
Around these activities, we’ll also be running our Trick-or-Trek bus tours. These mini-tours take place on our Nairobi bus and depart every 45 minutes starting at 10am. Climb aboard and head out to meet giraffes, rhinos, watusi cattle, and antelope galore!
If all of this hasn’t satisfied your Halloween cravings, top off the day with a dinner reservation at the Savana Cafe! Not only will you have a delicious dinner in sight of our haunting herds, you’ll also be able to attend an after dinner presentation by Corky Quirk of NorCal bats. She’ll be talking about our local bats and bringing some of them to meet you face-to-face!