Zoo Guardians mobile game has just announced an exciting partnership with the Smithsonian National Zoo involving an animal-naming initiative. As of July 20, 2021, the Zoo Guardians mobile game is giving players a once-in-a-lifetime chance to name an endangered animal that was born at The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)! Essentially, players are being asked to vote to decide on the name of an adorable two-month-old black-footed ferret kit, which was born to its 3-year-old mother (named Potpie) on May 19, 2021.
This is the first time a mobile gaming community has named an endangered animal at SCBI; and a rare chance for young gamers and conservationists to directly connect with zoo wildlife in a real-world context. Any players who vote will receive a special in-game reward. Moreover, black-footed ferret decor items will be available for purchase in-app during the voting period. Zoo Guardians is free to download via this link and is available in the App Store and on Google Play.
Julianne May, the Associate Marketing Manager at JumpStart Games, recently discussed this collaboration via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan(MM): When did you first decide to create an app game centered around zoos?
Julianne May (JM): The idea of creating a zoo simulation game had been on the minds of our JumpStart team for quite some time. We knew that a game of this nature would give our developers the incredible opportunity to craft a world and experience for our audience that is educational, engaging, and rewarding to play. It also aligned well with our market and JumpStart’s educational goals. Our partnership with Smithsonian’s National Zoo was the piece that completed the puzzle. It gave us the expertise and additional resources we needed to bring Zoo Guardians to life.
MM: How did you come to collaborate with the Smithsonian Zoo?
JM: Since the early ideation stages of Zoo Guardians, we have been determined to build a game on a solid foundation that is both realistic and educational. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is an expert in their field, so when looking at possible Zoo simulation products, a partnership with them fit perfectly; it made sense. They are the leader in both conservation and animal care, and we are delighted to expand on their excellent work through Zoo Guardians.
MM: How did you decide to allow your players to help name a baby animal?
JM: The Zoo Guardians team is constantly developing ways increase interactivity, engagement, and fun! We were exploring how to give our players a voice through in-game voting and polls, and our efforts aligned with the birth of three endangered kits by Potpie, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s black-footed ferret. The timing was perfection, as there are three kits, allowing their naming efforts to be shared between the Zoo Guardians community, Smithsonian National Zoo members, and the general public. This September is also the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the last wild ferrets, which were collected and bred to save this species. Naming this kit is one way we are celebration this conservation success! We are incredibly excited to share this opportunity with our players.
MM: Why did you decide on naming the adorable black-footed ferret kit?
JM: The birth of these endangered kits is an outstanding event for the National Zoo, one JumpStart wanted to celebrate. By inviting our players to name one of Potpie’s kits, we connect them directly to the Zoo’s conservation efforts. This is an exciting opportunity for aspiring zookeepers, animal lovers, and Zoo Guardians alike! By coming together to name a kit, our community is making an impact.
MM: What names are being optioned via the poll?
JM: The keepers at the National Zoo have provided our players with three names to vote between: Aspen, which is short for “quaking aspen,” a plant native to the American prairie; Cottonwood, which is a plant native to the American prairie; and Falco, in honor of the prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus).
MM: If this is successful, might you name other babies at this zoo and others?
JM: We are thrilled by the connection this naming event is creating between our players and the National Zoo. I know our development team and I are excited by any future naming possibilities, and other collaboration opportunities between the Zoo Guardians community and the Zoo. Definitely keep your eyes on Zoo Guardians!
MM: What has been the best thing about working on this initiative so far?
JM: I am over the moon every time I check in on the polls. Knowing that our players are as excited about naming Potpie’s kit as I am, is a wonderful feeling! Our team and our community love animals and we are making a difference together.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?
JM: Zoo Guardians is celebrating our one-year anniversary in August! It has been an amazing first year and we have more in store for our players, both for the anniversary and beyond!