Giant Panda Public Program:
Science, Conservation, Education and Outreach
To celebrate the first anniversary of Tian Tian's and Mei Xiang's public debut at the Smithsonian's National Zoo on January 10, the public was invited to mark the event as the Zoo renamed the giant panda exhibit the Fujifilm Giant Panda Conservation Exhibit.
On January 15 and 16, the Zoo held a two-day public symposium, "Giant Pandas at the National Zoo: From the First Year into the Future." Scientists from the National Zoo and other organizations on the cutting edge of wildlife conservation explored national and international policies that may affect the species, the Zoo's contribution to understanding panda reproduction, nutrition, and behavior, and how the Zoo, through financial support and professional training programs, is helping wild panda populations.
In April, Zoo staff published The Smithsonian Book of Giant Pandas to inform readers about giant pandas and the Zoo's important role in their conservation in the wild.
On August 1, thousands of visitors celebrated the pandas' birthdays, an event that received massive national and local media attention.
Two education programs, both funded by Fujifilm, are set to launch early in FY03. A distance-learning video program, a cooperative effort of the Zoo, Friends of the National Zoo, and the Fairfax County Public Schools, features Zoo-based giant panda research that will teach students about the components of the scientific method, a standard of learning in schools across the country. The video has the potential to reach 32,000 schools, and 13 million students, nationwide.
A web-based curriculum for school and family is being developed to focus on temperate forest habitats in the pandas' native central China and in the eastern United States, highlighting Zoo research in both of these areas.
Animal Planet Series
Discovery Channel's Animal Planet division filmed seven one-hour-long episodes of "Total Zoo" featuring staff, animals, and the research, conservation, and veterinary efforts of the Smithsonian National Zoo. The seven episodes, "Anything but Routine," "Going the Extra Mile," "Learning Curves," "Above and Beyond," "Home Sweet Home," "Adapting to the Wild," and "Handle with Care," were broadcast in October and November 2001. The broadcasts were repeatedly aired several times in the spring and summer of 2002.
Discovery in the Wild
William McShea, a National Zoo researcher, conducted a field survey in Laos in spring 2002. He discovered that the Eld's deer (Cervus eldi), believed to have been exterminated from Laos before 1990, was still living in dry forests in the central province of the country. The region where the deer reportedly survive covers about 250 square kilometers and includes 13 villages. McShea's recommendations include further field studies of the deer population as well as additional field surveys of the area to the east of the known habitat.
Community Outreach Initiative
In May 2002, the National Zoo, in partnership with the Latin American Youth Center, National Science Foundation, and San Francisco State University, established the Columbia Heights Community Science Workshop (CHCSW). The workshop brings Smithsonian science out of the museums and Zoo and into a popular neighborhood gathering spot for young people. CHCSW's science programs complement school science curricula as well as offer informal, after-school activities that encourage students' interest in the sciences. As part of a long-term commitment, scientists from the Zoo's Amazonia Science Gallery work with students and provide a practical, hands-on opportunity to learn more about the natural world and environment.
The Smithsonian's National Zoo joined forces and shared expertise with San Francisco State University, and Washington's Latin American Youth Center in a National Science Foundation funded program to develop science interest and skills among Latinos who have been identified as a group tremendously underrepresented in science professions in the United States.