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Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park Fact Sheet


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									Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Office of Public Affairs

Media only: Peper Long (202) 633-3055 Web site: www.nationalzoo.si.edu

August 2006

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park Fact Sheet
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo was established on March 2, 1889, by an Act of Congress for “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” Today, the National Zoo exhibits living animal and plant collections and conducts research in conservation biology and reproductive science. Its mission is to provide the highest quality animal care; advance scientific excellence in conserving wildlife; teach and inspire people to engage in conservation; and practice conservation leadership through sustainability. The National Zoo’s 163-acre park in the heart of Washington, D.C., is home to 2,000 animals representing nearly 400 species. An estimated three million people will visit the Zoo in 2006. • • • Nearly a quarter of the animals at the National Zoo are endangered species, including giant pandas, Asian elephants, white-naped cranes and gorillas. The National Zoo has 180 species of trees, 850 species of woody shrubs and herbaceous plants and 40 species of grasses; there are also 36 different species of bamboo. The National Zoo’s giant panda family—“Mei Xiang,” “Tian Tian” and their male cub “Tai Shan”—live at the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat. Tai Shan was born on July 9, 2005. The giant panda adults are on a $10 million, 10-year loan from China as part of a research, conservation and breeding program. The cub will likely be moved to China when he is 2 years old, to participate in a breeding program there. Born in 2001, “Kandula,” the National Zoo’s young male Asian elephant, is the fifth elephant calf in the world conceived through artificial insemination and represents a first step in Zoo efforts to develop a herd of breeding elephants. Kandula is one of three Asian elephants at the National Zoo. There are five Sumatran tigers at the National Zoo—two adult parents and their three cubs (two females, one male), born on May 24, 2006. There are currently eight cheetahs at the Zoo's Cheetah Conservation Station. This includes three adults and five young cheetahs (three females, two males) that were born on April 14, 2005.


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Research and Conservation
The National Zoo was one of the first zoos to establish a scientific research program. Today, the Zoo’s scientists study animals both in the wild and at the Zoo. Their research encompasses reproductive biology, conservation biology, biodiversity monitoring, veterinary medicine, nutrition, behavior, ecology and bird migration. Zoo scientists work at the National Zoo’s exhibits and lab facilities in Washington, D.C., and at the National Zoo’s 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., as well as at field sites around the world. Many animals at the National Zoo are part of conservation efforts managed by Species Survival Plans (SSPs). Through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s SSPs, zoos match and exchange animals for breeding, fostering scientific research and reintroducing animals into the wild. Early breeding programs at the National Zoo serve as models to develop other zoo-based conservation programs worldwide, and the Zoo directs several breeding programs, including golden lion tamarins and maned wolves. The National Zoo is a primary institution for educating future scientists and conservation professionals. During the last 20 years, more than 2,000 people from 80 countries have been trained through the Zoo’s zoological medicine residency training program and professional conservation and veterinary medicine courses.

Revitalization and Future Plans
On Sept. 20, 2006, the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail will open as the first major step in a 10-year initiative to renovate and modernize the National Zoo. A new and expanded Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat is the gateway to Asia Trail; the six other species living along the Trail will be sloth bears, fishing cats, clouded leopards, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters and giant salamanders. Kids’ Farm, an exhibit designed for young children, introduces visitors to domesticated farm animals. This interactive exhibit, which opened in June 2004, provides hands-on opportunities for children to care for the animals under close, trained supervision.

The National Zoo’s budget is part of the Smithsonian Institution budget. The annual federal appropriation for National Zoo operating expenses at both the Rock Creek and Front Royal facilities for fiscal year 2006 is $20 million; Congress also authorized $14.2 million for extensive renovations. The Zoo’s support society—Friends of the National Zoo—provides an additional $4 million to $8 million in private funds annually. Created in 1958, FONZ is a nonprofit organization with a membership of approximately 110,000 individuals. FONZ is dedicated to supporting the conservation, education and research efforts of the National Zoo.


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The National Zoo maintains a staff of 250 between the Rock Creek and Front Royal, Va., facilities, including animal caretakers, veterinarians and scientists. More than 100 facilities maintenance staff and 30 police officers are assigned to the Zoo. FONZ supports the National Zoo by developing and implementing education, membership and volunteer programs; hosting special events; raising funds for Zoo projects; and providing grants for Zoo research. FONZ operates an extensive wildlife-education program, and its corps of more than 1,500 volunteers provides about 90,000 hours of service to the Zoo each year. FONZ also provides concessions, merchandise and parking services for Zoo visitors.


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