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Save Smithsonian's Conservation and Research Center

Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence Small has announced the planned closure of the Conservation and Research Center at the National Zoo. This will end all conservation programs - including both research and training - at this world-reknown organization.
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National Zoological Park 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC , 20008
Contact Person: Lucy Spelman
Phone: 202-673-1846
E-Mail: lspelman@nzp.si.edu

Detailed Information:
Smithsonian Institution Secretary, Lawrence Small plans to publish his proposed FY2002 federal budget on Monday April 9, in which he proposes to redirect funds to support "public services" at the SI. This is part of Mr. Small's plan to consolidate and reorganize SI science into a "single digit number of disciplines". The science reorganization is being lead by the Undersecretary for Science, Dr. Dennis O'Connor. Although CRC received ringing endorsements from three external peer reviews conducted during the past 10 years, no such review was conducted before this announcement, and no information was provided on the scientific criteria used to evaluate CRC's conservation and science programs. In late 1999, an internal reorganization consolidated virtually all NZP science under the direction of the Associate Director for Conservation, Dr. Chris Wemmer; this included scientists and affiliated staff from the Department of Zoological Research (now known as the Department of Conservation Biology). THUS, THE CLOSURE OF CRC WILL VIRTUALLY WIPE OUT ALL SCIENCE AT NZP. In one brutal and ill-advised action, NZP science has been reduced from the world's pre-eminent zoo-based conservation organization to just another small zoo, with a handful of Ph.D. scientists (almost all in reproductive physiology). Gone will be programs in marine mammal biology, molecular genetics, small population genetic management, migratory birds (including the Migratory Bird Center), field ecology, GIS and remote sensing, animal behavior, monitoring and assessment of biodiversity programs (MAB), and most importantly, conservation biology (including long-term ecological field studies in the US and abroad). The new Smithsonian leadership apparently fails to recognize the eminent achievements of this unique center. Some relevant facts and milestones: 2,000 publications in peer-reviewed literature, including NATURE, SCIENCE, and PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCE $20 million raised in extramural funding; $2 million from intramural competitive awards Scientists participate on 75 advisory groups ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Translation of NZP science into captive animal management has resulted in 25 awards from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and US Fish and Wildlife service 3000 conservation training course alumni representing over 80 countries 1000 volunteers, interns, university students and post-doctoral fellows (many of whom have become conservation leaders in the US and in their native countries) Other milestones: First to document threats to neotropical migratory passerines and birds of the Pacific Rim Major discoveries in the basic biology of long distance bird migration, and initiatives to mitigate threats to migratory bird survival Founders and scientific advisors to SI-Nepal Tiger Ecology Project Advancement of protected area management programs in the developing world through long-term ecological research, training, professional capacity building and community relations Pioneered the development of American Zoological Association's Species Survival Plans and Fauna Interest Groups (now known as CAPs) and Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) Longest running study of the impacts of white-tailed deer overabundance on the ecology of the Eastern Deciduous Biome Establishment of the Migratory Bird Center, important as a source of up-to-date and reliable information about migratory birds Development of digital technologies for wildlife conservation, including GIS and remote sensing Pioneered the development of ancient DNA techniques to study phylogeny using museum specimens and ancient bones Breakthroughs in noninvasive hormone monitoring in wildlife species, and the development of assisted reproductive techniques Reintroduction on the golden lion tamarin, Arabian oryx, Przewalski's horse, black-footed ferret, Guam rail, Bali mynah First biodiversity assessments and ecological studies of dry indaing forests of Burma Field research and conservation of Toque macaques, Bengal tigers, Asian and African elephants, tree kangaroos, African wild dogs, ibexes, and desert tortoises, to name only a few Development of new anesthesia and medical therapies in a diversity of wildlife species Development of innovative husbandry and captive breeding techniques in Pere David's deer, Eld's deer, amakihi, Micronesian kingfishers, Guam rails, golden-lion tamarins, and many others First to quantify the detrimental effects of inbreeding on population fitness so common in small captive and wild populations Development of small population management software programs, in use worldwide, that have revolutionized how zoos and field biologists manage and maintain genetic diversity Novel training programs in Zoo Biology, Wildlife Management, Protected Area Conservation Leadership, Remote Sensing and GIS, Biodiversity and Assessment, Molecular Genetics, Veterinary Medicine, and specifically tailored workshops on related subjects Implementation of novel environmental education programs that emphasize CRC's cutting-edge research; these include the "Bridging the Americas Program" and the "Environmental Latino Initiative Promoting Science Education", and "Forest Biodiversity Monitoring" For more than 25 years, CRC has been a pioneering force within the zoo and conservation community. From an cost_benefit perspective, CRC's staff has produced more scientific breakthroughs, published more peer-reviewed manuscripts, secured more grant funding, trained more developing country professionals (in the most countries worldwide), and placed more scientists in zoo and conservation leadership positions in the United States, and abroad, than any other zoological institution in history. CRC's success is derived from the synergy of its physical location (a field site within the Eastern Deciduous Biome), the talents of its staff, the diversity of its science, its emphasis on education and training, and their national and international network of collaborators and partners. No conservation organization worldwide exists to fill the void that will remain once CRC is abolished.

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