From the late 1980s into the 1990s, the world seemed to be opening up to new opportunities and a growing sense of optimism. The Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War came to an end, concluding nearly 50 years of fear and tension between the Soviet Union and the U.S. and Western Europe. Nelson Mandela was freed and negotiated the end of apartheid in South Africa. The U.S. economy improved, leading to low inflation, low unemployment, and greater prosperity. People were watching “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons,” and “Friends” and were introduced to a young wizard named Harry Potter. The San Diego Zoo was expanding its horizons as it introduced the concept of bioclimatic zone exhibits, which represented the habitat in a particular area of the world and the animals and plants within it. The Zoo would soon be transformed with seven of these new exhibit complexes, along with five new visitor experiences at the Zoo and Wild Animal Park to connect people more closely with animals.
Not all was rosy in the world, with the disastrous effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and emerging warnings about the eroding ozone layer and increasing global warming. Environmentalists and conservationists continued to have great concerns about wildlife and habitats, and the San Diego Zoo was widening and strengthening its collaborative working relationships with countries around the world. But great progress was being made in medicine and technology, and personal computers opened the World Wide Web to the average person. The Zoo joined the digital community with its first website, connecting an even larger audience with animals. The website also created a portal that would be used more and more in the coming years—especially with the arrival of “pandamonium.”