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Survival Species by da i s y r i d gway k h a l i fa

of the

the smithsonian conservation biology institute in front royal used to specialize in animal research. now, its mission has been expanded to include not just studying endangered animals, but also saving them and their habitats from extinction.

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t is a crisp, sunny, early spring day in Front Royal, and I am being driven along the rolling roads of a 3,200-acre government facility known as the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, or SCBI. Located on an expansive, well-manicured campus, on the edge of the Shenandoah Mountains in Warren County, SCBI is a premier training and conservation science center. It employs 45 scientists and animal experts—ecologists, bird specialists, veterinarians, biologists, reproductive physiologists and educators—most dedicated to saving endangered animal species, according to SCBI director Steve Monfort. And it doesn’t take long to find an example. After passing through several enclosures and numerous outbuildings on the sprawling property, we spot a large maned wolf inside a gated area on a hill. The endangered maned wolf, once a thriving species in South America, has been part of a 30-yearold cooperative breeding program aimed at saving it from extinction. There are two at SCBI, Rambo and Ibera. Ibera sits up to scrutinize us; she’s got big ears and a thick brown coat that bristles in the chilly wind. As we continue our tour, other animals come into view, including several red-crowned and white-naped cranes and Prezwalski horses. A wild horse that originally lived in Western Europe and Asia, the “P-horse,” as it is known at the facility, has been part of SCBI’s Species Survival Plan for years. We then enter Cheetah Hill. To our left, a tall, jaunty female cheetah lopes toward us. In the next enclosure, another adult female cheetah named Zazi lies in a spot of warm sunlight with her two cubs, one of which she adopted last December after giving birth to her own female cub. In a headlinemaking effort in late 2010, SCBI biologists managed to unite, or “cross-foster,” a two-week-old male cub with Zazi’s newborn, and ever since Zazi has been raising the two as her own. Thanks to a web cam, spectators at the National Zoo in Washington are able to view the scene. p h o t o g r a p h y b y M e h g a n M u r p h y, s mi t h s o n i a n ’ s nat i o na l z o o

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8/24/11 6:05 PM

Virginia Living - October 2011  

The October 2011 issue of Virginia Living is the tastiest yet, featuring our favorite pairings of cheese and wine, with every crumb and drop...

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