I have been working with giant pandas for over 17 years, and have enjoyed every minute of it! I am very proud of the approach we have taken in order to maximize the conservation value of all our research. It has also been very exciting to expand our research, using this same approach, with other bear species. By building bridges between zoo and field research, we make the most of any opportunity we have to learn about pandas and other bears, and what they need to survive long into the future.
I have been working with giant pandas for almost 20 years. I love working with pandas because I love contributing to an effort that is much bigger than myself. The panda program is a large program involving many, many San Diego Zoo Global staff and external partners, and I am proud to be a part of this effort. I enjoy my time spent directly observing giant pandas, both in breeding centers and in the wild. One of our most significant early contributions was working with our Chinese colleagues on the conservation breeding program. In part because of these efforts, today we have plenty of pandas breeding and producing healthy cubs. In more recent years, I've come to know what the panda's life is like in the wild, and I have worked with Chinese colleagues to determine what, exactly, some of the important habitat requirements are for the species. Seeing this new knowledge applied to better policy and management has been most rewarding. Because of efforts like this, we can now envision a day when pandas may no longer be endangered.
I have been researching condors and their ecology for the last six years, studying how these intelligent and curious birds interact with each other in complex social groups and how they catch the winds that allow them to soar across their mountainous habitat with minimal effort. I am grateful to be part of a program that is acquiring much-needed scientific information to enhance the conservation management of the condor and contribute to the successful restoration of this magnificent species back into the wild.
I have been working with the California condor program developing release techniques and release sites for over 35 years. I think the program's greatest accomplishment is saving the species from extinction by breeding them in zoos (no small victory) and also reestablishing them in the wild in their historic habitat. We have yet to reach our ultimate goal of establishing self-sufficient condor populations, but we are approaching that success very rapidly. It is a great feeling to know I've had a part in saving a species and restoring them to the wild.