San-Diego Zoo

: 3/11

Among Mrs. Benchley's more famous accomplishments was the arrival at the Zoo in 1949 of Albert, Bata, and Bouba, a male and two female western lowland gorillas from French West Africa. All less than a year old, these gorilla babies captured the hearts of San Diegans, who lined up by the hundreds to see them. Their first day on exhibit a crowd of some 10,000 arrived, setting a new Zoo attendance record.

The Schroeder Years

Following the retirement of Mrs. Benchley in 1953, Dr. Charles Schroeder became director of the Zoological Society in January of 1954. He was the Zoo's first leader with a scientific background in animal care. Dr. Schroeder received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Washington State University in 1929 and had initially been hired at the Zoo as a veterinarian/ pathologist in 1932. But, as he often recalled, he performed many other duties as well, such as taking photographs to sell to visitors as postcards.

It was through Dr. Schroeder's vision and persistence that the San Diego Zoo's sister facility, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, came into existence and later opened to the public in 1972. As director of the Zoo until 1972, he was also responsible for many other now well-known Zoo attractions, including the Skyfari aerial tramway, the Children's Zoo, and the moving sidewalk or escalator. He further increased the Zoo's commitment to research and remodeled its hospital.

It was also during this period that the local television show "Zoorama" was created, with its first airing in January 1955. Later syndicated nationally, the program brought the San Diego Zoo into the homes of millions of viewers across the nation.

Into the Present

The history of the San Diego Zoo in recent years has been one of a new awareness of the role of zoos in our world. Under the able leadership of new directors and members of the board of trustees, the Zoo has become increasingly concerned with captive breeding and the conservation of wildlife. Consequently, a number of conservation projects have been established, both at the Zoo and Wild Animal Park as well as elsewhere around the world. The first international conference on the role of zoos in conservation was hosted by the San Diego Zoo in 1966, during the celebration of the Zoo's 50th birthday. In addition, the Zoological Society presented its first conservation awards that year.

Perhaps the most outstanding of the Zoo's conservation projects has been the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES). Launched in 1975 as an intensive research effort to improve the health and breeding success of exotic animals, CRES is dedicated to its primary goal of helping endangered species of animals reproduce and survive, both in captivity and in the wild.

Some of the achievements CRES is most proud of have included gratifying reproductive successes with cheetahs, Indian and southern white rhinoceroses, and Przewalski's wild horses.

THE ANIMALS OF EURASIA

Eurasia is the largest land mass on earth, stretching halfway around the globe from the British Isles to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Bering Sea south to the tip of Malaysia, an area of 54 million sq km (21 million:sq - few of its animal species, especially those in the north, are closely related to, and in some instances are the same as, those of North America.

Relatively recently, as earth time is measured, Eurasia was linked to America by a land bridge which spanned what is now the Bering Straits. This causeway existed for thousands of years during the Ice Ages, when much of the earth's water was locked up in glaciers, thus lowering sea level. Animals crossed back and forth between the two continents on the land bridge, and the first human settlers in America probably arrived via this route.

About ten thousand years ago, the latest in a series of ice ages came to an end. The ice melted; the seas rose, and the Bering land bridge was submerged. Animal species which had wandered west into Eurasia or east to America were isolated from their native homelands. But because ten thousand years is a mere eye wink in evolutionary timekeeping, very few changes have had time to take place in these exiles. For example, the largest member of the deer family lives in the taiga of both Eurasia and America. In Eurasia it is called an elk, in America, a moose. But it is one and the same animal. This is also true of another deer, the caribou, or reindeer. The former is a wild animal of America; the latter has been domesticated for centuries by the Lapps of northern Europe.

: 21/12/2008