Giant panda Bao Bao, born at the National Zoo on August 23, 2013

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

$86.2 Million raised

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

Saving Species, Preserving Biodiversity

We live in an era when species and ecosystems are disappearing at a speed unmatched since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) play a leading role in global efforts to save species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists.

During the Smithsonian Campaign, donors to the National Zoo and SCBI helped fund cutting-edge conservation research, support scholarly and leadership positions and ensure that millions of annual visitors could experience animals they may never have the opportunity to see in the wild.

Alice and David M. Rubenstein gave $4.5 million to advance the National Zoo’s pioneering work on giant panda research and reproductive health science, which contributed to a conservation milestone: In 2016, the giant panda was downgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on the global list of species at risk of extinction. Zoo visitors and panda fans around the world also benefited from the Rubensteins’ generosity, celebrating the birth of two giant pandas cubs, Bei Bei and Bao Bao.

The Rubensteins donated an additional $2 million to help the zoo establish a multi-generational herd of Asian elephants, which will provide a crucial boost to the Asian elephant population in human care.

ConocoPhillips gave $2 million to help the Smithsonian save migratory birds throughout the Americas. The funding allows scientists to map where bird species fly throughout their annual lifecycle—often thousands of miles—and identify where they are likely to encounter threats. Through this work, scientists are also testing the latest satellite technologies, leading to smaller and smaller devices to track animals around the world.

The Roddenberry Foundation gave $600,000 to fund SCBI’s Reef Recovery Initiative, which includes a world-class genomic library and frozen repository that houses twelve coral species. These biobanks hedge against extinction for corals facing the damaging effects of climate change, disease and loss of genetic diversity.

To build long-term leadership capacity, John and Adrienne Mars gave $6 million to endow the directorship of SCBI. Together, the zoo and SCBI received over $3.75 million in support from donors to fund six Smithsonian Secretary's Scholars who are pioneering tools and techniques to preserve biodiversity for future generations.

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute
Leadership Message

Leadership Message

Our planet is amazingly rich and abundant with life. Unfortunately, scientists now believe we are in the midst of a global mass extinction, with more than 22 percent of all animal species at risk. At the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, we save species and their habitats.

Our research has led to breakthroughs in the reproduction of many endangered animals. Our education programs train scientists to care for the world’s biological diversity. And our zoo in Washington, D.C., inspires visitors to take personal action to support conservation.

In the years going forward, my goal is to equip conservationists around the world with the tools necessary to conserve species. As the challenges of safeguarding the Earth’s living heritage grow, so does our determination to play a leading role in shaping a bright future for both people and wildlife.

The Smithsonian Campaign will help us create a major exhibition about bird migration, increase our capacity to train the next generation and endow our leadership positions.

Please invest in the Smithsonian Campaign so that we may continue to safeguard our biological heritage.

  • Dennis Kelly
    Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park
Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute
Campaign Case

Preserve Earth’s Biodiversity

Without urgent action today, some of the world’s most magnificent creatures will become extinct, lost to the generations that follow. We live in an era when species and ecosystems are disappearing at a speed unmatched since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute have the expertise to confront this crisis and take comprehensive action to address the complex biological and ecological problems that are at the root of this potential tragedy. With your help, WE SAVE SPECIES.

We Inspire 
Conservation leaders began their journeys as children curious about the world around them. Our 2.4 million annual visitors marvel at our 2,000 animals and learn about wildlife conservation. We connect visitors to our animals by immersing them in real-life conservation stories, many drawn from the work of our scientists. 

We Discover
Our scientists developed the leading reproductive programs in the world to save giant pandas, Asian elephants, and cheetahs. We played a prominent role in bringing the black-footed ferret and the Mongolian wild horse back from the brink of extinction. We identified the deadly chytrid fungus in amphibians and are now breeding endangered frogs in captivity while we search for a cure. Around the world, we work in 30 countries to study and save endangered species and their habitats.

We Teach
We provide learning opportunities that prepare future generations for environmental stewardship and build conservation capacity here and worldwide. Our educational programs range from preschool and day camps to an undergraduate semester in conservation studies. We have the longest-running veterinary residency training program in zoological medicine and intensive training for conservation professionals in the field. We have trained more than 5,000 wildlife and conservation professionals from more than 60 countries worldwide. 

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

is raising $80 million of the Smithsonian Campaign’s overall $1.5 billion goal. 

Campaign Priorities

Experience Migration

$20 Million

We will invite our visitors to Experience Migration through the transformation of our Bird House and surrounding grounds into an educational celebration of birds and bird migration. Experience Migration will be the only major exhibit of its kind in a zoological park or natural history museum. It will showcase 25 years of pioneering research by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center with interactive exhibits, walk-through aviaries and a tracking lab. Visitors will learn how migratory birds complete their marathon journeys and be inspired to participate in protecting them.


$20 Million

We will establish endowed positions, fellowships and program funds that create a steady stream of resources on which we can rely in perpetuity to sustain our exhibits, research and education programs. Gifts to endow leadership positions will provide us with the stability and prestige to attract outstanding scientists and ensure that these innovators have the capacity to react quickly to opportunities and crises. Gifts to endow fellowships will enable us to increase the number of research and animal care positions and attract creative new leaders in these fields. Gifts to endow programs and facilities will help to guarantee the most inspirational guest experience and the highest quality animal care.

Slate Hill

$10 Million

We will develop the Slate Hill Conservation Initiative to enhance our efforts to create new knowledge to save species. We will convert a 125-acre plot at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal into six large sites to serve as research facilities for animals endangered or extinct in the wild. These sites will provide our scientists with abundant space to conduct studies to understand the animals’ basic biology and aid in their reproduction, survival, and recovery. Slate Hill will also include biodiversity corridors and land management demonstration sites to support best practices for Virginia land and wildlife conservation

Academic Center

$5 Million

We will fund the transformation of a set of old animal structures into an Academic Center for the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s headquarters in Front Royal, Va. The Academic Center is a teaching and research facility that has allowed us to greatly expand the reach of our research, education and capacity building efforts. Opened for student use in the fall of 2012, the Academic Center contains 9,250 square feet of classroom and state-of-the-art dry and wet lab space, as well as 3,760 square feet of office space. It meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Standards and includes features such as geothermal energy, green roofs, a rain garden, wildlife-friendly landscaping. 

Giant Pandas

$5 Million

Every five years, the National Zoo works with the People’s Republic of China to establish a new agreement to bring giant pandas to Washington, D.C. The agreement allows the National Zoo to continue to exhibit these magnificent animals to the millions of Zoo guests from across the country and around the world who visit them every year, along with the millions more virtual visitors who enjoy them through the panda cams on our popular website. Most importantly, the agreement supports the continuation of the National Zoo’s groundbreaking scientific research and conservation work in China in cooperation with the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association.

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

John and Adrienne Mars' gift endows the director position held by Steve Monfort, shown. 



Investing in the Future of Conservation

Investing in the Future of Conservation

For three decades, Adrienne and John Mars have supported the Smithsonian with gifts and leadership. Adrienne Mars has served on the boards of the National Zoological Park and National Air and Space Museum, on the Regents’ Advancement Committee, and on the Smithsonian National Board. “For the campaign, we wanted to make an endowment gift because it’s an investment that lasts forever,” she says. So they decided to endow the director position at the Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), currently held by Steve Monfort. The position will be named the John and Adrienne Mars Director. “SCBI is where the future of conservation is happening,” says Adrienne Mars. “The research and education programs that Steve runs are leading the way.” The couple also endowed the director position at the National Air and Space Museum.

The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat 



David and Alice Rubenstein - Zoo

Helping to Save Species

David and Alice Rubenstein are generous philanthropists who give to many Smithsonian programs. At the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, they support its iconic and beloved species—the Giant Panda. Each year, millions visit the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, designed to mimic the panda’s natural rocky, lush terrain in China. Millions more follow the Zoo’s giant panda couple and their cub, Bao Bao, via webcams. In the wild, pandas' long-term survival depends upon habitat available, and the Rubensteins’ help to underwrite conservation efforts in China as well. The couple has also generously supported the Zoo’s work to establish a multi-generational herd of Asian elephants—now numbering seven—that will provide a crucial boost to the Asian elephant population in human care.


Ken Zemrowski and Susan MacKeen at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Photo Mark Avino 



Zemrowski and McKeen

Philanthropic Relationship Honored at the Bay Started Long Ago

Susan MacKeen and Ken Zemrowski launched their wedding reception from the dock of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on the Richard Lee boat in 2012, toasting their relationship together and with the institution. The couple had spent time volunteering at the Chesapeake Bay research center before the reception, but their relationship with the Smithsonian had started a long time prior to that. Zemrowski, a member of the Smithsonian Legacy Society, has provided for the Smithsonian through his estate plan and established a charitable gift annuity. His first date with MacKeen was attending the Smithsonian Annual Weekend in 2010. Both have been members of Smithsonian Associates, Friends of the National Zoo, the National Air and Space Society and the James Smithson Society. Through these associations, they have met conservation scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., and toured behind-the-scenes at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. “I like museums. I also like knowledge. I resonate with ‘the increase and diffusion of knowledge,’ the Smithsonian’s mission. It is an important mission. The Smithsonian is, after all, not just the bricks and mortar on the National Mall,” says Zemrowski. 



A Will for the Future of Wildlife

A Will for the Future of Wildlife

A native Washingtonian, Ann Bissell has loved visiting the National Zoological Park—especially the elephant exhibit—ever since she was a child. "As I've gotten older, my feelings about conservation and ecodiversity have grown deeper," she says. "I want to make every effort I can to save species and repair the damage that's been done to the planet." She has helped care for the zoo's elephants as a volunteer for more than a decade, has served as a member of the Friends of the National Zoo Board of Directors for six years and has travelled to Asia to help with elephant and clouded leopard conservation projects. But Bissell intends to do more than a lifetime's worth of work for her causes: she has included in her will a bequest to support the elephant program at the zoo and animal conservation research at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. "These scientists are brilliant and passionate. They are training the next generation of conservation biologists, and my gift will help them continue their discoveries in areas like elephant health," she says.

Zazi with her seven-week-old cub.




Scientists at the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are studying the reproduction of cheetahs to help save them from extinction. Through a generous gift from Diane and Hal Brierley, the zoo has expanded its cheetah facility in Virginia. "Conservation may be the least understood work of the National Zoo," says Hal Brierley. "We hope our gift will serve as a catalyst to insire additional giving."



Ensuring the Future of Amphibians

Brian Gatwicke, a scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is racing to save tropical amphibians from a deadly fungus. "Brian's passion and unbridled belief that he will find a solution is why we support him," says Susan Mars. "He helped me understand that if all the frogs die, we will have bigger problems." She and her husband Frank Mars have invested in Gratwicke's research through SCBI in the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. It safeguards some of the world's most vulnerable amphibians and will reintroduce them into the wild once a solution is found. "I look forward to being on hand that day," Frank Mars says.

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

Contact Us

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute Campaign Officers

Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute Advisory Board

  • Jim Dinegar Chair
  • Susan Mars Co-Chair
  • Wendy Block
  • Hal Brierley
  • Bruce Campbell
  • Jeffrey D. DeBoer
  • Joan Donner Honorary Member
  • Charles Francis
  • Jennie Turner Garlington
  • Thomas E. Lovejoy
  • Angie Marriott
  • John W. Marriott III Honorary Member
  • Adrienne Mars Honorary Member
  • Terry D. McCallister
  • Ziad Ojakli
  • Patricia N. Olson, DVM
  • Terry Prather
  • John F. Ring Ex-Officio
  • Emanuel L. Rouvelas
  • David M. Velazquez
  • Beatrice von Gontard

Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute

Total Goal:
$86.2 Million


$86.2 Million Raised

As of November 30, 2017

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