Kids travel to the Grand Canyon, Big Sur, and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in the nearby mountains to learn about saving the highly endangered California condor. But a new mobile game called Condor Country allows students to virtually travel to those regions and raise and release their very own flock of condors. The game, which was developed as a partnership between the Santa Barbara Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Cerberus Interactive, emerged from the successful Condor Kids project, which was a curriculum project developed by the zoo and USFWS for the Fillmore Unified School District.
More California condors live in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties than anywhere else, said Michael Glenn from USFWS, and most of these students didn’t even know we had condors or what a condor was. With Condor Country, students not only learn about condors but also learn how to protect them and how “they too can become advocates for these species.” Assigned a virtual condor flock, gamers can simulate an endangered-species recovery program. In turn, players learn about wildlife management strategies and get excited about conserving endangered species.
The game mirrors California’s Condor Recovery Program; thus, just as in real life, players also experience setbacks. Gamers must be wary of their condors becoming sick or dying from ingesting trash. Lead poisoning is another danger still. Luckily, there are field veterinarians in the game who help care for the birds. Players can also explore other characters and choose to be zookeepers, field biologists, or benefactors.
Condor Country’s reach intentionally goes beyond the zoo. “Rather than investing in a kiosk at the zoo, we decided to develop an interactive, educational game that could teach far beyond zoo guest,” said Aaron Marshall, director of education at the zoo. Explained Paul Souza, a regional director with USFWS, “We are revolutionizing the way that people can connect to endangered species and to the people working to save them.”
Download the free game for Android or iOS by searching for Condor Country.