San Diego Zoo Global is dedicated to the science of saving endangered species through active conservation projects in 35 countries.
Field stations where our research takes place include a windswept cluster of buildings on California’s San Clemente Island, a sanctuary dedicated to rehabilitating the Mojave Desert’s endangered tortoises, the Keahou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers in the forests of Hawaii, field camps in Cameroon with tents to keep the rain at bay, rustic bungalows surrounded by howler monkeys in Peru, conservation centers for giant pandas in China’s bamboo forests, and lodges overlooking the expanse of the African savanna.
Our field researchers work with local people, fellow conservation scientists, partner organizations, and government agencies to achieve wildlife conservation goals. An important goal is to support and train local scientists and conservation managers to enhance stewardship of threatened species and their habitats.
San Diego Zoo Global invites you to discover our field stations around the world, and join our researchers in their quest to help save endangered species and preserve our planet.
Cocha Cashu Biological Station
San Diego Zoo Global recently expanded its commitment to Amazonian rainforest conservation by taking on management responsibility for a conservation and research station located in the Manu National Park in Peru. The 4 million acre park is located in the western Amazon and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and, as such, is protected as a biosphere preserve. It is perhaps the most biodiverse lowland tropical forests in the world and is considered one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet.
The park is home to more than 1,000 bird species, 200 species of reptiles and amphibians, 125 species of mammals, and 40 species of fish, with more species sure to be documented. Living in the area of the field station are such rare and charismatic species as jaguars, giant river turtles, Goeldi’s monkeys, black caimans, lowland tapirs, and giant river otters. The only human inhabitants of the region are indigenous groups including the Machigenga tribe and five other tribes that remain “uncontacted” by Western society.
San Diego Zoo Global staff will maintain the station, making it available for researchers from other organizations and as a premier field research site and training facility for conservation scientists.
Research Stations of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program
The Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) currently operates in four main locations. The two primary facilities are captive propagation centers – the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC) and the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC) – with bird releases and other fieldwork occurring at additional remote field-sites.
The field sites of the HEBCP are operated by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, on behalf of the 3-way partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
At each facility, a team of Research Associates, led by a Research Coordinator, undertakes the crucial bird husbandry and artificial propagation activities. Additionally, the program staff are responsible for a wide range of other activities, ranging from food prep to aviary maintenance to horticulture. Program staff are also involved in fieldwork at our remote sites – currently the Alakai Natural Area Reserve on Kauai, where we have weather-ports at the Halepaakai and Kawaikoi drainages, and high up on the northern slopes of Mauna Kea at Puu Mali. Here we engage in the release and post-release support and monitoring of captive-bred birds to re-establish or augment wild populations in protected habitat – Puaiohi and Palila respectively.
KBCC is located just outside of the town of Volcano, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Situated on 155 acres, which is generously leased as a donation by Kamehameha Schools, KBCC has continuously developed since 1995, and now includes 18 `Alala aviary buildings scattered around the grounds, as well as two forest bird barns and a main building with offices, a small vet clinic and notably, our suite of incubation and hand-rearing rooms. Two-thirds of the world’s entire population of `Alala reside at KBCC, along with captive flocks of Puaiohi, Palila, Maui Parrotbill, as well as visiting wild Nene.
MBCC is located in Olinda, nearly 4000 feet up the slopes of the Haleakala Volcano. MBCC is actually on old low-security prison, which was converted (with varying success) to a state bird facility in the mid-1980s. In 1996, the HEBCP took over the management of the old facility, prompting a change to its current name. Since then, MBCC has continued to evolve as a successful bird propagation facility with two forest bird barns, Nene pens, two older `Alala aviary complexes and most excitingly, four new, `Alala aviary buildings for a total of 24 bird-friendly units.
San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Captive Breeding Facility
San Clemente Island, located 68 miles west of San Diego, is the southernmost of the eight main Channel Islands, and it is an active training site for the US Navy, including the Navy’s only live fire range. The windswept island, 21 miles long and 1 to 4.5 miles wide, is home to a variety of endemic plants and animals, including the critically endangered San Clemente loggerhead shrike Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi.
The US Navy funds the long-term collaborative recovery effort that involves, field-monitoring, predator management, habitat restoration, release, and a captive breeding program run by San Diego Zoo conservation biologists.
Our on-island captive breeding facility houses a population of 60-65 adult shrikes that are bred to produce birds for release into the wild population. The station has a staff of 7 including a Program Manager, a Research Coordinator, and 5 Research Associates. They fly to the island from the North Island Naval Air Station and live on island during their workweek.
Duties can include animal husbandry, minor veterinary care, hand-rearing chicks, behavioral monitoring, data management, and facilities maintenance. The survival and successful breeding of captive-reared shrikes released to the wild has grown the wild population from a low of 14 birds in 1998 to a current population of over 70 breeding pairs.
California Condor field research station, Baja California, Mexico
The Condor Field Station is situated within the Sierra San Pedro National Park in central Baja in an area of the park designated for conservation research by CONANP (the Park Service of Mexico).
Starting as a collection of tents at the beginning of the project in 2002, it grew to three trailer/ campers within the first year. At nearly 8,000 feet in elevation in a conifer forest of predominantly Jeffery pine, the seasonably harsh climate of snow and sub zero weather necessitated more substantial accommodations for the field staff of 4 to 6 biologists.
Over the last 6 years a 6-room, 2 story brick building has been erected with a 5 mega watt solar powered system and heat source that is able to accommodate the staff, volunteers and visiting scientists.
The main function of the field station is to support the reintroduction of the California condor into the Sierra San Pedro with annual releases of 4 to 7 captive bred birds. Besides maintaining the pre-release birds and managing the 20 released condors by providing large carcass food once a week, staff and visiting scientists and veterinarians conduct tests and research aimed at assisting the reintroduction efforts.
Desert Tortoise Conservation Center
In March 2009, San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research began a partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Nevada Department of Wildlife to operate the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC).
Our main goal at the DTCC is to play a critical role in the conservation of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, including recovery of the threatened desert tortoise. Seven staff members currently care for several thousand resident Mojave desert tortoises at the center, and the center operates a hotline pickup service that delivers more tortoises to the DTCC each year.
Most of the tortoises from the hotline are pet desert tortoises, and unfortunately, many of these tortoises were not cared for properly in captivity. At the DTCC, these tortoises are rehabilitated so they can one day be returned to the desert to live freely. San Diego Zoo Global and its partners are in the process of changing the role of the DTCC from that of a transfer-and-holding facility to one that will support range-wide recovery efforts for the desert tortoise through conservation research, participation in on-the-ground recovery actions, training of biologists, and public education.
Ebo Forest Research Stations
The Central Africa Program has concentrated detailed research and conservation work in the forests of the proposed Ebo national park, Cameroon, since 2002. In 2005, we established the first of our field research stations at Bekob, and later established further field stations to concentrate on different aspects of the enormous biodiversity across the forest, as well as to protect the forest from hunting pressure.
Our research stations are manned permanently by our team of dedicated staff, many of whom come from the villages surrounding the forest. Daily activities include monitoring trails and transects for observations, vocalizations, and signs of large mammals, including forest elephants, red river hogs, several endangered primates species such as drills, chimpanzees, gorillas and the critically endangered Preuss’s red colobus monkeys.
We also host national and international researchers and university students at our field stations, and we collaborate with and help train Cameroon’s future wildlife law enforcement officials. Our conservation objectives extend to the villages surrounding this incredible forest, and ensuring excellent communication with the traditional chiefs and their subjects.
We are currently working with these communities to develop income-producing strategies that do not harm protected species, and supporting the fledging Organization of Ebo Chiefs to lead conservation initiatives and sustainable development into the future.