New Institute for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo

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San Diego Zoo Announces Creation of Institute for Conservation Research

Jul 10, 2009

After decades of dedication to conservation, the San Diego Zoo has created the Institute for Conservation Research. The Institute, which represents a significant expansion of the well-known Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES), will provide central organization and management for the world-wide scientific programs of the San Diego Zoo.

International Conservation On A Local Scale

The newly designated Institute for Conservation Research is a broad-reaching science organization that includes on site research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, laboratory work at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs with more than 180 scientists working on conservation projects in 35 countries. It also includes targeted efforts for key endangered species through the Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Botanical Conservation Center, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers, management of the California condor program in Baja California, joint operations (in partnership with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service) of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Nevada, and the creation of a new Endangered Species Disease Response Center scheduled to open in 2010.

“We recognize that now is a critical time in the survival of many species,” said Douglas Myers, Chief Executive Officer for the San Diego Zoo. “Because of this overwhelming need we have not only expanded our on-grounds conservation facilities but we have also reached beyond San Diego using our expertise and reputation to raise awareness and success rates at a time when these efforts may make the difference between extinction and survival for many species.”

Sustaining Conservation Efforts

The San Diego Zoo’s original conservation research entity, CRES, was founded in 1975 and has been responsible for numerous successes including the creation of a sustainable population of California condors, the development of techniques encouraging breeding in cheetahs, and the ongoing work to improve cub survival in giant pandas.

"When we founded the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species in 1975, our focus was very specific," said Chuck Bieler, San Diego Zoo Executive Director from 1973 to 1985. "Now the world looks to the San Diego Zoo and its 180-member Institute staff to solve the most complex issues that are pushing thousands of wildlife species toward extinction."

Endangered Species In The Spotlight

Two recently added conservation centers bolster the Institute’s ongoing commitment to saving endangered species: the newly constructed Griffin Reptile Conservation Center located at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Nevada.

The Griffin Reptile Center houses more than two dozen breeding pairs of critically endangered Caribbean iguana species and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center near Las Vegas is home to an estimated 1,000 desert tortoises.

"Our partnership with San Diego Zoo is a great step forward in conservation efforts for the desert tortoise,” said Bob Williams, U. S. Fish and Wildlife's Nevada Office field supervisor. “The animal husbandry expertise and reputable science that they bring to the partnership will help us transform the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center into an asset that will aid us in furthering tortoise recovery.”

The desert tortoise program exemplifies critical conservation recovery efforts where the San Diego Zoo is asked to lend its expertise to help species in trouble.

"When we were contacted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, it was a '911 call' for one of the Southwest's most endangered species.” Said Dr. Allison Alberts, the San Diego Zoo’s Chief Conservation Officer and Director of the Institute. “No wildlife conservation science team is in a better position to address the disease, reproduction, and habitat issues facing the Desert Tortoise."

Contributing To Conservation - One Zoo Visit At A Time

As one of the nation's largest conservation organizations, the San Diego Zoo funds its Institute through grants, membership revenue, and from Zoo and Wild Animal Park tickets, merchandise, and food service sales.

“Not only do we have the largest zoological membership in the United States, but we are extremely privileged to receive support from donors who recognize the San Diego Zoo’s legacy of conservation leadership and continue to support these efforts,” said Mark Stuart,

Chief Development and Membership Officer for the San Diego Zoo. “It is through the support of these people, and by each visitor who helps us raise funds for conservation by paying admission to the Zoo and Wild Animal Park, that we are able to create and maintain conservation programs that have a significant impact on saving species.”

About The Zoological Society of San Diego

The not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego, dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats, engages in conservation and research work around the globe. The Zoological Society manages the 100-acre San Diego Zoo, the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park (which includes a 900-acre native species reserve), the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research and receives support from the Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

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