Kopje: Island in the plain
Rocky islands that stick up in the middle of vast seas of grassland, the kopjes (pronounced “COP-ees”) of Africa are a first-rate example of some of nature’s unique interspecies partnerships. Kopjes are complete ecosystems in themselves. They support plants and animals that would have problems surviving outside the protection of the rocks.
Look closely at the San Diego Zoo’s East African Kopje exhibit and you’ll see more than just a rocky face. At work here is the concept of simulating a specific bio-ecological niche—the first of its kind here at the Zoo. You’ll find diminutive klipspringers, gregarious dwarf mongooses, rock hyrax, powerful bateleur eagles, and some smaller birds native to this unique African habitat.
In the wild, kopjes are also used as way stations for weary animal travelers, a cool respite from the parching dryness of the surrounding savanna. Prehistoric tribes used the caves of the kopjes for religious rites, and you’ll find pictographs in the Zoo’s Kopje depicting animals and plants as they were thousands of years ago.
Our Kopje also serves as an open-air classroom, surrounding visitors and teaching them with interactive displays. Test your binocular vision to judge distance just like an eagle would, examine the termite mounds (artificial, of course!) to see how large they can get, and compare a klipspringer’s feet to a rock climber’s gear. You’ll soon see what a special place an African kopje can be.