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Rain forest in San Diego.

Thanks to a new computerized fog system at the big zoo, you can meet jungle plants and animals

Ten inches of annual rainfall in San Diego can't compare with the 100-plus inches common in steamy rain forests. But a computerized fog and irrigation system for a new rain forest exhibit at the San Diego Zoo has convinced a lot of flora and fauna otherwise.

The system is the key climate control for the 3-acre, $6 million Tiger River complex. Modeled on an Asian rain forest, it's the most ambitious part of a ]5-year master plan to reorganize zoo attractions. Instead of seeing, for example, only primates or only reptiles together, you'll see a collection of mammals, birds, reptiles, and plants from the same ecosystem all exhibited in the same place. Other zoos in the West-notably in Seattle and recently in Fresno are working on the same premise, but the San Diego Zoo is pioneering this idea on the grandest scale.

Visitors, creatures, and some 500 species of plants feel the cooling fog from highpressure emitters operating at 1,000 psi. The fog is so light that it won't get youor your camera-wet.

Amid vegetation growing denser by the day, you'll see exhibits that teach about the world's most critically endangered habitat. Estimates of annual rain forest loss range up to acreage the size of Nebraska, as tropical countries destroy forests for crop land, grazing land, roads, and firewood.

Chuck Coburn, the zoo's chief horticulturist, began collecting exotic or especially large specimens for the rain forest years ago. The result is the zoo's most expensive and diverse botanical collection. You'll see some of Southern California's tallest palms. Easter lily vines curl up trees, hitching a ride to the sun, while Dendrobium orchids grow on trunks. You'll also see the zoo's only China lace trees and a rare Indian tulipwood.

Tiger River features some hundred birds, mammals, and reptiles representing 35 species. But the animals aren't always easy to spot, Their new habitats let them take full advantage of their natural camouflages-speckled fishing cats sit in a mud-cliff den, striped tigers lurk behind thick bamboo, and green water dragons lie on green branches. But none of the animals are behind bars. You view tigers through 1 1/2-inch-thick glass, birds through a mesh of piano wire, and the tapir family across a moat.

The zoo, in San Diego's Balboa Park, is open 9 to 4 daily. Admission is $8.50 adults, $2.50 ages 3 through 15. For information, call (619) 234-3153.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Tiger River rain forest in San Diego Zoo
Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:420
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