Today's aquariums and zoos are more than a place to view sharks and killer whales or to see lions, tigers and bears up close. In addition to educating the public about wildlife and the importance of taking care of the environment, zoos and aquariums play an important role in helping endangered species. For example, the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo helped save the California condor from extinction by helping to increase the number of condors living both in captivity and in the wild. Make an online visit to some of California's zoos and aquariums and learn about their research and conservation efforts through the direct links on the Times Launch Point Web site: http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint.
Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.
The Los Angeles Zoo: It takes many years of training and experience to become an elephant keeper and safely care for creatures that are 50 times the size of a person. Find out about just-born animals and far-out animal facts and view online animal movies and exhibits.
Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach: Though the ancient Sumerians kept fish in ponds as early as 2500 BC, the first public aquarium wasn't opened until 1853 in London. Learn about the tremendous amount of work involved in taking care of the 10,000 ocean animals in the Long Beach Aquarium and take virtual tours of some of its exhibits.
Oakland Zoo: What does a flamingo sound like? What are the benefits of a lion's mane? Find out through the many video and audio clips available on animals from A to Z, and see animals from Asia, Africa, Australia and California in their natural habitats.
Monterey Bay Aquarium: What are the critical issues in ocean conservation? Read about threats to our oceans and find out how the Monterey Bay Aquarium helps through such efforts as rescuing sea otters and performing research. Discover the amazing lives of creatures under the sea through exhibits, articles and even some fun activities.
Santa Ana Zoo: Take a tour behind the scenes of a zoo and see how animals are fed and kept healthy. Find out about endangered species such as the black-and-white ruffed lemur and view animals from Africa, South America and Australia.
American Wilderness Zoo: California Wildlife: What is a typical day like in one of California's biomes? Explore California's redwoods, deserts, high Sierra and coastal environments and find out about plant and animal life through pictures and fun facts.
Marine Mammal Center: What happens to animals after they are rescued from the wild? Read about the exciting rescue efforts of the Marine Mammal Center as it helps such animals as Humphrey, the humpback whale that got trapped in the mud of San Francisco Bay. Learn about marine mammals and find out about careers in marine science.
Sea World/Busch Gardens Animal Resources: Whether you're interested in aquariums as a hobby or wondering about the importance of biodiversity, this site provides many resources on the sea and its creatures. Take an aquatic safari, learn about endangered species, find out about careers with animals and check out the library of animal sounds ranging from anteaters to sea lions.
The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park: Travel around the world and view animals in their native habitats. Find out about the zoo's successes with endangered species and learn about its many animals.
Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Julienne Cameron, Jillian Sanker, Danielle Patterson and Anna Manring.
The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.
What made the zoo built in Stellingen, Germany, a model for 20th century zoos?
CLUE: See the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park
Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 100 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to http://www.latimes.com/launchpoint/ for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.
Answer to last week's Quest: Geodesic domes are very energy efficient and relatively simple to build.