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Giant Pandas: Past, Present, Future, and the Million Dollar Question

Giant pandas draw great crowds at zoos in the United States, but because of their dwindling numbers in the wild, they are very difficult and expensive to obtain from China. David Powell oversaw the giant panda behavior studies at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., which lead to the successful breeding of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian in captivity and the subsequent birth of Tai Shan on July 9, 2005. Powell will discuss the state of giant pandas in the wild in addition to providing a glimpse into the politics, history and his own research regarding these amazing animals.

Currently Dr. Powell is an assistant curator in the Department of Mammalogy of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo in New York. His research has focused primarily on ungulate and carnivore behavior in captivity and in the wild. His specific research interests include social dominance, endocrine physiology, and captive animal well-being. He received his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Maryland in 2000. His studies focused on behavior and reproductive physiology in a population of horses living on Assateague Island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. At the Bronx Zoo, he has conducted projects on transport stress, oral vaccine efficacy, maternal behavior, and responses to scent lures for camera traps. In the near future he hopes to launch a project on behavior and ecology of takin using captive collections in the U.S. and a population of wild takin in Sichuan China. This lecture is co-sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Roberts Environmental Center, and the Claremont Colleges Chapter of Sigma Xi.