The San Diego Zoo and Zoological Society of San Diego had much to be proud of as the organization’s ninth decade began. The Zoo was revitalized with beautiful, immersive bioclimatic zone exhibits, and a long-cherished hope, dating all the way back to the days of Belle Benchley, of including giant pandas at the Zoo had become a reality. Dr. Schroeder’s dream, the Wild Animal Park, was well established and reached its 25th anniversary in 1997, continuing to fulfill its promise as a facility to breed some of the world’s most endangered species.
These were fortunate successes in the midst of what became very turbulent and uncertain times. The fast pace of the technology revolution had some people nervous while others found it exhilarating—the Y2K scare turned out to be unwarranted, but computers were now becoming a necessity in business and for personal use, with the rise of handheld devices like the iPod and the first wave of social media right on their heels. The terrible events of 9/11 changed the United States, and the military conflict and political, economic, and social upheaval that followed impacted the world. Alongside these global concerns, the cause of conservation marched on, the urgency growing as the world population of humans exceeded six billion, and habitats and ecosystems were affected by some of the highest overall temperatures the Earth had seen in recorded history.
More than ever, the Zoological Society saw its role and its future path in putting 90-plus years of animal care and conservation science expertise to work to save species. Breeding and applied study of critically endangered species, field projects and reintroduction programs, establishing collaborative partnerships with other organizations and conservation advocates, and hosting conferences to bring great minds together to solve conservation challenges would be the purpose and vision for the next 10 years—and beyond.