In addition to the regular scientific staff, about 35 postdoctoral, predoctoral, and visiting scientists are employed on “soft” money, mainly derived from federal grants, foundations and other non-Smithsonian sources.
There is an acting associate director for science, and CRC is seeking a permanent associate director. The Animal Support Department of CRC consists of a Veterinary Division, an Animal Division focused entirely on mammals, and a Bird Unit. There are two research departments: the Department of Reproductive Sciences and the Department of Conservation Biology.
The science programs associated with CRC are focused on the conservation and management of wild animal populations. A species-recovery program is dedicated to preventing extinctions and aimed at reintroducing species to the wild and more general research on a variety of other endangered species. Among the mammalian species studied at the Front Royal campus are the maned wolf, the black-footed ferret, and the Eld’s deer. CRC has an extensive and highly respected program in reproductive physiology, with an emphasis on reproduction of cats (especially cheetahs), elephants, and pandas. It also has a repository of frozen gametes, embryos, and tissues aimed at preserving genetic diversity. The ecology research emphasizes the processes that govern the distribution and abundance of wild populations, including migratory birds. Except where they were relevant to animal-care and management problems, the committee was not asked to evaluate the science programs at the zoo, which have received highly favorable evaluations in two recent reports, one external (NRC, 2003) and one internal (Smithsonian Institution, 2003a). Recently, CRC scientists have been directed to focus their Smithsonian-funded research more closely on the mission of CRC (personal communication, David Evans, November 2003; personal communications, CRC scientists, October 2003; NZP, Strategic Plan, May 2004).
In 2001 and 2002, the total CRC budget exceeded $10 million. Of that, about $2.5 million came from external grants and $0.5 million from grants from the Smithsonian Institution and Friends of the National Zoo. Administrative (about $0.460 million), facilities ($1.7 million), collection (about $1.2 million), and research ($3.8 million) expenditures, largely from Smithsonian—hence, federal sources, accounted for the remainder of the budget. From 1992 to 2002, when most other federal research agencies showed substantial budget growth, the zoo experienced a steady erosion of base support for research and a loss of 5% of its scientists (Smithsonian Institution, 2003a).
As of January 2003, the collection had 97 mammals of nine species, most of them endangered (NZP, Status of Mammalia Inventory, December 2003). A few “surrogate species” are kept as models of their rarer counterparts. At the same time, 172 birds of 11 species, again mostly endangered, were kept on the site (NZP, Status of Aves Inventory, December 2003). Those numbers have declined over the last decade, most probably for strategic reasons related to focusing of the research effort on a smaller number of species (personal communication, Linwood Williamson, November 2003). However, the Front Royal facility can also serve as a holding site, usually temporary, for animals not wanted at the Rock Creek Park exhibits or at other zoos.
The committee’s evaluation of the CRC facility was conducted by assessing the same aspects of animal management and welfare that were assessed at the Rock Creek Park facility, as detailed in the interim report, including: animal care and management, animal welfare, animal nutrition, recordkeeping, and pest control.
A head veterinarian and a veterinary technician provide primary veterinary care at CRC (NZP, -CRC written response on 4/12/04 to NRC committee members’ queries). The CRC research veterinarian or a Rock Creek Park