Case Study

Pandas & Polar Bears & Apes…Oh My? San Diego Zoo’s App Takes Animal Lovers to the Wild Side

featured image

With more than 5 million visitors each year, the San Diego Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in the world. And with over 4,000 animals of 800 different species roaming around in 9 themed exhibits, the San Diego Zoo has been breaking grounds in animal conservation and research for nearly a century.

Now the San Diego Zoo is sharing their passion for animals with their official app powered by Mobile Roadie.

With Mobile Roadie, the San Diego Zoo team was able to pack 100 acres of content in their app. App sections include an overview of the exhibits, an animal directory, a schedule of events, visitor info, news, and much more. Users can plan their trip to the Zoo right on the app from purchasing tickets to choosing which areas to visit. And once they’re at the zoo, they can use the detailed map to get around.

Launched in December 2011, the San Diego Zoo app immediately appealed to animal lovers worldwide. In the first week of being live, over 5,000 fans downloaded the app. To date, more than 65,000 animal enthusiasts have downloaded the app to watch their favorite animals, tour the Zoo, and learn about what’s being done in the fight to protect wildlife.

In addition to being the perfect tour guide, the Zoo is educating users about the importance of animal conservation. Save Wildlife is a section of the app where users can read about wildlife conservation success stories, and become a wildlife conservancy rockstars to help the Zoo bring species like the Giant Panda back from the “brink of extinction – all part of the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy program.

The most popular section of the San Diego Zoo app is Animal Cam where fans can watch and learn about their favorite zoo animals in real-time. In the first week, the Panda LiveCam was played close to 10,000 times while the Polar Bear LiveCam garnered nearly 8,000 plays. In a month, the plays jumped to over 53,000 and 43,000, respectively.

Given the overwhelming positive response, the Zoo released the Ape LiveCam in coordination with their Absolutely Apes event. Absolutely Apes is a 4-day affair at the Zoo celebrating and bringing awareness to the different species of primates, including the Gorillas, Bonobos, Orangutans, Siamangs, and Gibbons. Fans went absolutely bananas for the Ape Cam, which has been played over 99,000 times and counting.

Up next in the lineup, the Zoo added the Condor Cam for fans to watch resident condor couple Sisquoc & Shatash and their egg. In the News section of the app, fans could learn all about the couple, as well as the incubation period for condor eggs. Since the 1980s when there were only around 22 California condors left in the world, the Zoo launched the California Condor Recovery program. Through that program, the Zoo has hatched 172 chicks and released more than 80 condors into the wild.

This time was even more special because it was the first time a condor hatch was broadcast live at the Zoo. Fans tuned in to take advantage of this rare opportunity. On March 8th, the condor chick started to “pip” or hatch from its shell, which the Zoo alerted fans through a push notification (seen below):


The Animal Cams promote daily fan interaction. Having a section The Animal Cams promote daily fan interaction. Having a section of your app constantly updated with new content keeps users coming back often. To date, the Animal Cams have been played over half a million times!

And viewers aren’t just watching these cuddly animals, they’re sharing their passion for wildlife with their friends. Of the 3.4 million section hits, 975,000 hits have been to comments. Users can earn custom Zoo badges inside the app for sharing photos & comments, and checking in on Facebook and Twitter.

The Zoo is also using QR Codes to engage visitors in an exciting way. They launched a QR Code Easter Egg Hunt around the Zoo in conjunction with their Play Days promotion. With 16 eggs in total, each egg scanned improved participants’ chances to win the Ultimate Play Date prize package. 3 eggs were “prize eggs” that when scanned awarded the winners prizes that could be picked up at a Zoo gift shop. Visitors had fun roaming around the Zoo finding and scanning the eggs. Some visitor comments include “[We] had a blast searching and we found all 16 eggs!”and “[I] Found 14 of 16 and 3 were prize winners this morning. Have to go back to find the last two.” Example of an egg below:

With exclusive and entertaining content, the San Diego Zoo app attracts brand-new users who may not have been interested or had access to the Zoo before. Fans from all over the world, as far as Singapore, have downloaded the app. And with the app’s global reach, the Zoo is able to connect more people than ever before to wildlife.

The perfect on-the-go solution for large venues like amusement parks, zoos, and museums are mobile apps. With Mobile Roadie, a venue can create a content-rich app that mobile visitors can use before, during, and after their visit. And if you have live cams of cute, furry animals, you can integrate those in your app as well.

From the beginning, we knew the San Diego Zoo app would be a hit – Come on, who wouldn’t want a portable zoo right on their mobile device?

Become an Animal “Roadie” and download the official San Diego Zoo app, available for iPhone and Android, at sandiegozoo.

*Update July 2012: San Diego Zoo app has accumulated over 108,000 downloads and over 6 million section hits in total. The Panda Cam has over 352,000 plays; the Polar Bear Cam has over 270,000 plays; The Ape Cam has over 172,000 plays; and the Condor Cam has over 103,000 plays.

Social Media