It started out as a sweet idea in a couple of Annapolis-area neighborhoods to give the kids in the community something fun (and safe) to do while they’re social distancing.
Neighbors called upon neighbors to put colorful stuffed animals in various places around their yards as a kind of scavenger hunt for kids to find while out for a family walk or bike ride. Communities called them “zoofaris.” (If you didn’t catch CBM multimedia journalist Cheryl Costello’s video story, you can see it on our Chesapeake Bay Media YouTube channel.)
The Bay nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy created an interactive online map so that any community in America (heck, even the world) could start their own neighborhood zoofari, dropping location pins in all the spots where animals can be spotted. It’s a tool to engage families in positive activities, and for Chesapeake Conservancy to raise awareness of its conservation efforts.
The conservancy’s Director of Conservation Technology, Jeff Allenby, was inspired to create the app (found at greatzoofari.com) after seeing his neighborhood’s homegrown version. Allenby built a GIS map where participants can log their stuffed animal locations. Of course, like at a real zoo, Chesapeake Conservancy cautions everyone to look at–but not touch–the animals (like in a real zoo) to prevent any contact that could spread COVID-19.
The interactive map took off in a matter of days. There are nearly a thousand location “pins” on the Great Zoofari, with communities jumping on board from as far north as Trenton, New Jersey and as far south as Amelia Island, Florida.
Chesapeake Conservancy is thrilled with the app’s success, and reminds everyone who goes for a stroll with their family–on safari or otherwise–to keep their distance from others during walks, as mandated by several states’ stay-at-home orders.
-Meg Walburn Viviano